22 July 2010

plants: Straggler Daisy

I'll admit that I have a love hate relationship with straggler daisy (I'm more fond of calling it horseherb, but straggler daisy works). Calyptocarpus vialis is one of our very common native "weeds." It grows everywhere.

So, generally, when I don't want it in a garden bed, it gets yanked. But it's also a really great groundcover for sun or shade, and it has these pretty little yellow flowers. And I just learned from my neighbor Mary that there's another reason to love it. It seems to outcompete Bermuda grass, which I loathe, so leaving straggler daisy growing in flower beds and lawns can help get rid of that nasty stuff.

 [Straggler daisy lawn taking over the grass.]

There's another great reason to love the straggler: it can be a host plant for bordered patch butterfly caterpillars.

In my neighborhood, the bordered patches are absolutely everywhere. These little orange and black butterflies are having a banner year. They are also easy to approach, since the males like to perch on stalks and look for females. Females can be much larger than males, by the way.

The caterpillars really love sunflowers, and masses of the younger larvae strip the leaves bare. Here's a group of them on one of the sunflowers that grow wild in our side yard.

Because these caterpillars turn to the straggler daisy for food too, now I'm less likely to just yank the stuff up, even from the flower beds, because I know there's critters out there that need it...


Amy Farrier said...

I've noticed a ton of bordered patch butterflies in my garden this year; wonder if it's the horseherb. Anything that can stand up to bermuda grass is good in my book!

David said...

My tolerance and now fondness for horseherb is steadily growing since it is also a native alternative to carpet grass in shady locations in my garden. We've been on vacation to Castroville and now I finally know the name of this beautiful mystery butterfly. It's everywhere. Thanks for posting this.

David (Tropical Texana in Houston)
BTW: I've never seen this butterfly here. Hope it finds my horseherb soon. :-)

Mamaholt said...

ME too! I kinda like it. I really kinda like it better than evil Bermuda.

Nancy said...

I've always called it horseherb and love it because it looks so lush and green. I didn't know about the caterpillars so now I'm happy I generally leave it alone. Thanks for the new name for it as well.