Buddleja Species

Outside of the buddleja genus, the family Loganiaceae has 7 other genere within it.  Most of the genera are found in warm tropical climates.

Genus buddleia has about 100 species, many native to North and South America.  Other geographic locations include Africa, Asia, China and Japan. The butterfly bush is included in this genus.  Species for butterfly bushes is 'davidii'.

As popularity of these flowering shrubs grows, technology continues for hybrids and cultivars.  Depending on geographic area and species, this ornamental plant could potentially grow out of control and still be identified as a weed.  On the other hand, they may not.  There is still much debate over this as there is with the spelling of buddlia.

Not all native, these buddlejaceae species are what we will likely see in North America.

1)  Buddleia alternifolia - 

Also called 
Fountain Buddleia or Fountain Butterfly Bush, 'Alterno' is Latin referring to the alternating lance shaped leaves. 

From China originally, this species is exceptional because of the alternating leaves.  Another exception is when pruning butterfly bush, previous years growth should remain on bush.  

When spring arrives very fragrant one inch lilac colored flower clusters grow atop old growth while alternately newly growing stems are forming, producing a softer fall look.  Rather than cutting back in spring as with other species, B. alternifolia should be cut back after it has finished blooming in spring.

This is a hardy flowering tree that can live for decades and has become a very popular cultivated species.   Narrow dark green leaves are cascading reminiscent of a weeping willow tree as it fills out.  The average height for this species is 12 feet (4 m).

Occasionally leaves on this shrub can be silvery-green in color. The cultivar of this species, B. alternifolia 'Argentea' has silver leaves with tiny hairs. Argentum is Latin meaning silver.  Because of this it is known as the Silver Fountain Buddleia.  Blooms are more violet in color. 

Pruning isn't necessary with this shrub
unless wanting to keep within certain boundaries.  

2)  Buddleia davidii - 

The butterfly bush plant is the 'davidii' species of the genus buddleia. Although genus was named after Reverend Adam Buddle, the species 'davidii' was named after French missionary Pere Armand David who made many botanical expeditions to China in pursuit of learning more about the genus throughout the 1860's.

Photo: Carl Lewis

Buddleia davidii is on the the most hardy of all Buddlejaceae.  Species are able to withstand harsh winters.  Other qualities that set davidii apart from the other flowering shrubs within the genus are:

  • This is the ultimate butterfly flower!  Blooms are so rich with nectar that butterflies find these blooms exceptional.  This is how the butterfly bush plant got its name.  Outside of being butterfly food, these are also great flowers to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

  • Fragrant plants which also attract pollinators.

Because of these qualities the Buddleia davidii has become a very popular for gardeners as well as easy gardening. Many hybrids and cultivars have become very popular from this genus.

Three buddleja species that are native to North America, found in desert areas of the south-west United States.  They include:

  • Wooly butterfly bush (Buddleia marrubiifolia)
  • Wand butterfly bush (Buddleia racemosa)
  • Escobilla Butterfly bush (Buddleia scordioides)

3 - Buddleia globosa

Globosa is Latin for 'globe', or round. 

This species can also be called Orange Ball Tree and the yellow Lemon Ball. Although rare, another color that this has been seen in is cream.

B. globosa was one of the first buddleja species in cultivation. It is a deciduous, or semi-evergreen, shrub with lance shaped, deeply veined green leaves. 

Photo: Easy Butterfly Garden

As with the above mentioned B. alternifolia, flowers appear on the previous seasons growth so it's best to prune after blooms are spent in early summer.  

B. globosa is monoecious, or having male and female flowers on the same plant.  These flower balls average 3/4 inch (2 cm). With its chemical compounds this bush also has been used for medicinal purposes throughout the world from helping those with respiratory issues and different forms of healing.

The blooms can have a slight fragrance and bush can grow into a small tree with heights up to 15 feet (5 m).

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