Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do You Know Snow Squarestem?

Great purple hairstreak on a snow squarestem.
Snow squarestem or salt and pepper (Melanthera nivea), a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae), attracts a high volume of butterflies, skippers, bees, wasps and even hummingbirds. It has only white disk florets in its flower head. Unlike a sunflower, it has no ray florets that look like petals. Its common name comes from the white flowers and its square stems with a mostly opposite leaf arrangement. Many members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) also have square stems and opposite leaves, so when I first heard the common name I assumed that this was in the mint family, but the plants are classified mostly by their flowers’ characteristics, not by their stems or leaves. (See A Plant by Any Common Name…)

The squarestem is a perennial that dies to the ground each winter and over winters with a ring of basal leaves. It can tolerate poor soil, drought, and some salt spray, which are all important traits for much of its range, particularly here in Florida. Its range includes most of the SE US, according to the USDA.

Read more on my post over on the Beautiful Native Plant blog: Snow squarestem: a bee and butterfly magnet.

What plants do butterflies like best in your yard?

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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