Does Bougainvillea attract butterflies?
The Bougainvillea hybrids are South American plants which you see in almost every garden in Thailand.
The man-made hybrids are generally composed of the species B. glabra, B. peruviana and B. spectabilis (Nyctaginaceae). Bougainvillea blooms during the entire dry season when many native Thai plants are dormant. Being thorny it can be used for making a colourful hedge to keep dogs and cows out of your monsoon garden. It can also be allowed to trail up trees and to create draperies. It is easy to grow but demands full sun and should not be watered much but allowed to follow the monsoon seasons.
Some people think its bright exotic colours ruin the Thai landscape, others love Bougainvillea and say it complements the popular blue roofs.
You would assume that the brightly coloured bracts surrounding the cream flowers would attract butterflies. In fact, at Dokmai Garden we do not see many butterflies visiting our pink and white Bougainvillea flowers, but there are exceptions:
This ‘common wanderer’ (Pareronia anais, Pieridae) took a sip from a Bougainvillea flower when we visited Mae Khanin Tai village in the Opkhan (Obkhan, Op Khan) national park on November 4th. However, I think this young male was actually attracted by the nearby golden dew drop (Duranta erecta). During a feeding frenzy in a golden dew drop a newly hatched butterfly may try a little bit of everything, even Bougainvillea.
To see this and many other butterflies in the Opkhan national park just south of Chiang Mai, avoid the drier area around the headquarters, but go straight to the road’s end near the small temple. Ask the locals for ‘Wat Mae Khanin Tai, krap’ (‘the temple of Mae Khanin Tai, please’).
Text: Eric Danell
Photo: David Fielder