Tampa nursery uses native Florida plants to attract ‘flying art’ to backyard gardens

A Tampa nursery is on a mission to the natural landscapes of Florida.

“We’ve scraped away and expelled a lot of our native landscapes as we’ve developed the land,” said Camacho, owner of Little Red Wagon Nursery.

According to the nursery, plants that evolved in Florida’s sandy soil are always the right plant, in the right place, depending on the need for sun or shade.

“There are a lot of different reasons to put back native plants. Erosion control is a big reason. Also, putting plants in the ground that don’t need as much water and don’t need fertilizer,” Camacho explained.

In addition to not having to use fertilizer, some native plants also attract butterflies. These host plants are where the females lay their eggs, and then the caterpillar will eat from this plant. Nectar plants keep butterflies around.

“The goal is to try and get native plants back and that’s what our wildlife needs, butterflies, bees, wild bees and a lot of other wildlife,” Camacho said. “The bottom of the food chain is super important, so feeding insects goes all the way to the top of the food chain, which ultimately are humans.”

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Camacho says you need host plants and nectar plants to have lots of butterflies in your garden.

“One of the cool things is being able to watch the whole makeover life cycle and people are really enjoying that,” Camacho said. “When you watch a butterfly lay an egg on a plant, the eggs are really small, the size of a pinhead, and then you can watch that egg and after about a week the egg will hatch and a caterpillar will be there and start nibbling on your plants. The caterpillar, of course, grows and grows and grows until it’s ready to enter a pupa. Then a few days later, about a month-long cycle, you’ll have a butterfly.

In Florida, people will see butterflies as long as the temperature is above 50 degrees.

“Butterflies are like the art of flying and bringing that movement brings joy to almost anyone.”

There are about 118 to 125 resident butterflies in the Tampa and central Florida areas, but there are about 200 species that fly or migrate through the area.

Little Red Wagon is one of the few native nurseries in Hillsborough County. It has a full team that can help residents find what they need to start planting natives.

LINK: Learn more about the Little Red Wagon Nursery at https://littleredwagonnativenursery.com/.

Dora W. Clawson