Butterfly Gardening: Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)

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(Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar hanging out on its host plant Chamaecrista fasciculata)

Also known as Showy Partridge Pea, Sensitive Plant, and Sleepingplant, Patridge Pea is native from southern Florida to northern Minnesota, It looks best when planted in groups and is easy to include in most medium to large size gardens. A short-lived perennial that is grown as an annual, partridge pea has bright yellow flowers that incorporate easily into many garden border combinations. Try pairing with liatris for contrasting colors and plant forms.

Partridge pea also provides pollen for a number of other insects and birds relish the seed pods that follow the flowers.

 

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(Via bonap.org, dark green areas represent where Partridge Pea is native, while light green areas represent where it is not native but common.)

Importance as a caterpillar food source: Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Little Yellow caterpillars all use partridge pea as a food source. All three of these butterflies range widely over the southern U.S., with Little Yellow’s range being restricted eastward.

Partridge pea is also used as a food source by Ceraunus Blue caterpillars which are common in far southern regions, usually late in the summer; found all year long in southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Gray Hairstreak caterpillars also include partridge pea as a caterpillar food plant in addition to countless other plants.

Importance as a butterfly nectar source: A good nectar source that also attracts many pollinators in addition to butterflies.

Partridge Pea Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: Plant annually
Bloom Period: Summer to fall
Bloom Color: Yellow
Plant Height: 24 to 40 inches
Plant Spread:18 inches
Light Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil Moisture: Medium to dry
Animal/Pest Problems: None

 

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