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Buddleja davidii

Buddleja davidii

Scientific name: Buddleja davidii, often spelled Buddleia

Common names: Butterfly bush, orange-eye butterfly bush, summer lilac, mimenghua, mi meng hua

Family: Buddlejaceae

Nativity: China and Japan

Location: Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve, Leland, NC

Date: October 24, 2016

Notes: The beautifully ornamental butterfly bush is widely planted in the southeastern United States, and all around the world. It is beloved as a nectar plant for butterflies, but is not a host plant for Southeast native insects. It has naturalized in Britain and is considered invasive in New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Northwest.

Since local butterflies don’t lay their eggs on it, and it has potential for taking over in areas where those host plants are needed, how about a native plant instead? Consider the butterfly magnet, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), or fothergilla (Fothergilla spp.), or a North American salvia (Salvia coccinea, and others). All look beautiful and provide for local wildlife at the same time — and they add variety and some diversity to your landscape! Who needs a million butterfly bushes if you can plant some other nice things?

If you already have a butterfly bush or find a naturalized one, feel free to use it all up! They make good dye plants, producing shades of green, golden-orange and brown. [1] In China, Buddleja officialis, and perhaps this species as well [2], is used for pink-eye with swelling, watering of the eyes, and for sharpening vision. [3] Anecdotally, B. davidii flowers make a delicious medicinal syrup with sedative properties. [4]


[1], accessed November 4, 2016.
[2], accessed November 4, 2016.
[3] Chinese Herbal Cures, Henry C. Lu, Sterling Publishing, 1994.
[4], see comment by Sally M., accessed November 4, 2016.

Amsonia ciliata

Flowers begin opening while the plant’s unfurling branches are lax, a curious but beautiful effect.
Gil Nelson, Wildflowers of the Sandhills Region, 2011

Amsonia ciliata

I‘ve heard more often about Amsonia hubrichtii because of its use in gardens, but A. ciliata is a good garden candidate as well. The fringed bluestar has the same things going for it that A. hubrichtii does — light blue flowers in spring, outstanding fall color — but the hairs (cilia) that characterize this species catch the autumn sun in a particularly beautiful way and make it appear to glow. [1]

In the garden, fringed bluestar is tolerant of dry soils and is resistant to deer and insect pests due to its milky sap. It likes a little sun; plant in an open woodland or in a sunnier spot at wood’s edge. A selection, ‘Spring Sky’, from the Philadelphia garden of botanist Mary Henry (1884–1967), is sometimes available in nurseries, or it can be grown from cuttings or seed.

Nineteenth century botanical doctor, botanist, and ethnobotanist, Gideon Lincecum, wrote in his notes, “I have not known this plant used for any thing or by any nation of people. But it possesses the characteristic marks for a good medicine.” He believed the root of the plant to be stimulant, sudorific, and emetic, and thought one day it could come into use. [2]


Scientific name: Amsonia ciliata

Common names: Fringed bluestar, sandhills bluestar, slimpod, blue dogbane

Family: Apocynaceae

Native Range: Southeastern US

  1., accessed 11/01/16.
  2., accessed 11/01/16.

Ageratina aromatica

Ageratina aromatica (Lesser Snakeroot)

Scientific name: Ageratina aromatica, syn. Eupatorium aromaticum

Common names: Small-leaved White Snakeroot, Wild-hoarhound, Lesser Snakeroot, Aromatic Eupatorium

Family: Asteraceae

Nativity: Eastern North America

Location: Sandhills Gamelands, Hoffman, NC

Date: October 23, 2016

Notes: Along with thousands of others in the 1800s, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died of “milk sickness” when she drank the milk from a cow that had eaten a close relative of this plant, white snakeroot (A. altissima). A. aromatica may or may not be less toxic than its famous relative, but it looks similar enough to avoid consuming it lest you make a mistake in identification.

The chemical involved is tremetol; you can be poisoned by having a large amount of it at once, or small amounts over a long period. Cows that have eaten the plants will begin to tremble, especially after any exertion, then die within a few days.

Having warned you, CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants by Umberto Quattrocchi (pg.  122) lists several historic uses for A. aromatica, among them crushing the leaves to apply to bruises and sprains.

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