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Tip of the Week: Rue vs. Meadow Rue

Are you planning a butterfly garden? Make sure you know the difference between rue and meadow rue. One is an important host plant; the other, not so much.
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Common names can cause much confuse when you’re planning a garden or shopping for plants. Many different plants can share the same common name. Common names often vary by region, with gardeners in different areas calling the same plant by different names, and calling different plants by the same name. That’s why its important to use Latin names. A Latin name is unique to its plant.

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

If you’re planning a butterfly garden, be aware of the confusion surrounding “rue” and “meadow rue.” Meadow rue (Thalictrum spp.) certainly sounds like a plant butterflies would adore—can’t you picture them flitting through the meadow? But rue (Ruta graveolens, pictured) is really the plant you want in your butterfly garden. It’s an important host plant for the caterpillars of the black swallowtail, giant swallowtail and other butterflies. The adult butterflies will visit your garden to lay their eggs on the rue. Meadow rue can attract butterflies to eat the nectar of its flowers, but you could argue that any plant with flowers has the potential to do that. Rue is really the more important butterfly-garden plant.

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Image courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder