How They Saved the Atala Butterfly 1

Residential landscaping could be the salvation of much of our wildlife. This story tells why.

Every butterfly has a “host plant” and the Atala butterfly is no exception.

The Atala butterfly, native to South Florida, depends on the Coonti plant for survival.

But the Seminole Native Americans, and later the European settlers valued the Coonti plant for the starch stored in its roots. The Coonti plant was over-harvested and disappeared from the wild.

Naturally, the Atala butterfly disappeared because it could not survive without the Coonti plant.

The Atala butterfly was thought to be extinct. It could not be found in 1973 when scientists wanted to list it as an endangered species (extinct species do not qualify).

Meanwhile, the landscaping industry in South Florida decided that the coonti plant looked nice in residential landscapes and started selling it as a landscaping plant.

This is the Coonti plant. When landscapers pushed it, the Atala butterfly reappeared.

Thus, the Coonti plant became commonplace, and what should reappear but the Atala butterfly.

The Atala butterfly was ACCIDENTALLY saved by the landscaping industry. Without a dime of government conservation money, a species was saved.

This is the Atala caterpillar, which feeds solely on the Coonti plant.

The same can be true for many of the species now at risk. The key is landscaping.

What we plant makes all the difference.

If we plant alien species that our caterpillars (butterfly larvae) cannot eat, then our butterflies will disappear.

This must be done IN OUR CITIES. Rural areas are no longer safe for wildlife, if they every were.

Much of our wildlife will survive (or not) depending on what we do with our urban and suburban landscapes.

One thought on “How They Saved the Atala Butterfly

  • Rosemary Bauman

    Neat story! Found Spicebush swallowtail larvae on planted mail-order bare root Spicebush I planted in my yard.

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