Natives shrubs for shade...and insects

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly sips nectar from
flowers of wild coffee.

Wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa, has been blooming profusely in recent weeks, attracting bees by the gazillion and nectar-hungry butterflies. The shrub that is native to South Florida is an excellent plant for shaded or lightly shaded areas, and can attain a good 10 feet in height if so allowed. It takes pruning wonderfully, however, and you can maintain it as a well-mannered hedge or allow it to billow. A leafy mulch contributes the organic matter that will benefit this shrub. It will wilt in times of drought, and so a good soaking may be required.

Bahama wild coffee is more
compact with smaller leaves.

Becoming more popular is the related Bahama wild coffee, Psychotria ligustrifolia, which has smaller leaves and stays more compact. This ranges from Miami-Dade County into the Keys throughout the Caribbean. I added three of these small shrubs to a new native/butterfly garden in my yard last year, and they are flowering with gusto at only about 2 feet tall. As we become more aware of the need to provide for bees and other pollinators, these attractive shrubs perform grandly. Plus, they do double duty: red fruit in the fall provide food for birds.