Cowpen daisy, one of my favorite butterfly host plants, is busting out its yellow flowers in my front yard. An undersung hero of the butterfly garden, Cowpen Daisy, Verbesina encelioides, is easy to grow, drought tolerant, a fantastic nectar source for many kinds of butterflies, and the host plant to the adorable Bordered Patch butterfly.
The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant database notes that Cowpen Daisy is also called Golden Crownbeard. “A well-branched grayish-green plant with mostly opposite, toothed, nearly triangular leaves and yellow flower heads. The flower heads are up to 2 inches (5 cm) across and have 3-toothed rays. The silvery green leaves are triangular with toothed margins.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I love this plant. It will grow anywhere, thrives in the heat, and doesn’t need much water–the perfect low maintenance butterfly host and nectar plant. You can keep it tidy with trimming or allow it to grow bushlike, up to five feet tall and three feet across.
Some disdain its wily ways and sometimes unkept appearance. Others look down on its indiscriminate choice of soil. It’s well-known for
promiscuously spreading its seed and germinating freely in disturbed situations.
But I take all that as a plus. For the busy gardener with limited time and a frugal watering schedule, Cowpen Daisy delivers. You may recall me writing about collecting Cowpen Daisy seeds in the wild late last fall. Those seeds were planted in trays, germinated, given a haircut and thinned, and were then transplanted into the garden. There they thrive.
As summer heats up, Cowpen Daisy will flourish. Bordered Patch, Gulf Fritillaries and Painted Ladies will soon light on its yellow petals. Later in August the Queens and Monarchs will return to slurp up its nectar. I look forward to their arrival.