A weed by any other name…



Before its migration south, American Lady butterfly feeds on White Snakeroot

You’ve seen this plant. It’s not a weed! White Snakeroot is a native plant that grows wild east of the Rockies in the US and Canada. It is in bloom now in Maryland’s Piedmont and is highly beneficial to pollinators and especially to migrating butterflies that critically need late-season nectar sources to fuel their journeys.


Lift off!

It’s found in backyards, road sides, alleyways, city and countryside, in sun and partial shade, in wet and dry conditions. So, everywhere there isn’t aggressive weed control.

If you are like me until a few years ago, you might have pulled it from your garden when it sprouted in the early summer. My advice to you — leave a patch for wildlife and you will be rewarded like this.


Common Buckeye fuels up


Red Admiral is another migrating butterfly


This Pearl Crescent’s offspring will overwinter in caterpillar stage in leaf litter

A Monarch caterpillar selected White Snakeroot to form its chrysalis. There will be plenty of nectar available when the butterfly emerges.

Bees and wasps too numerous to identify feed on and around White Snakeroot. Here’s one tiny wasp.


Ichneumon wasp patrols the snakeroot

And a variety of moths depend on White Snakeroot.


Ailanthus Webworm Moth


Yellow-collared Scape Moth

A word to the wise:  White Snakeroot is an aggressive self-seeder.


White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)

The moral:  Some plants that grow naturally in our yards might be highly beneficial wildflowers, part of a long-established web of life. A weed is in the eye of the beholder.

About the author Martha Johnston

A Master Naturalist toting a point & shoot camera and a basket full of field guides.

All posts by Martha Johnston →


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