Gregg’s Mistflower

Conoclinium greggii

Also Eupatorium greggii, Conoclinium dissectum. There is a groundcover species Conoclinium greggii, and a shrubby one, Chromolaena odorata.

If you were given the choice of only choosing one plant with the purpose of attracting butterflies, this would be the one. If there are butterflies in the area, any species of butterfly, they will be fluttering about on this plant, feeding on the nectar of the mistflower.

…This is one of a few species of plants that produces a natural compound called intermedine, which is a pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA for short). PA’s occur in many plants and are well known to ranchers, being poisonous to livestock (and humans) as they serve to protect the plants from grazing. However, it turns out that intermedine isn’t poisonous to butterflies, and is essential to the reproduction of queens and monarchs. When you see them nectaring on Gregg’s mistflower, over 90% of them are males happily imbibing intermedine with the nectar. Then they convert part of the intermedine to a smaller molecule named danaidone which is a sex attractant pheromone that draws in the females. During mating, the male passes the remaining unchanged intermedine to the female as a “nuptial gift” that once again manifests itself as a toxin, this time rendering her eggs unpalatable to predators!

Spadefoot Nursery

Flowers: J F M A M J J A S O N D
Status: Native
Origin: West Texas to southeast Arizona
Family: Asteraceae (Asters)
Size: up to 2′ tall
Sun: Full to part shade (prefers light filtered shade in the low desert)
Watering: Moderate
Growth Rate: Moderate
Soil: Sandy soil, loam or limestone-derived soil between 3,500- and 6,000-feet elevation
Temperature: Hardy to 0 degrees F
Pruning: Cut back any dead stems in late winter, and if the plants overwinter without dying back, cut them to ground level, as they will resprout from underground stems called rhizomes.
Disease and Pests:
Uses: Host for Rawson’s Metalmark. Nectar provides chemicals that allow male Monarchs and Queens to produce pheromones.
Notes: A good ground cover that spreads by roots. May freeze to ground in winter, but hardy to 0 degrees.


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