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Select plants to attract butterflies

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight on you." Ron Boender can't help you with happiness, but he can fill your life with butterflies.

Boender is the owner of Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, just north of Fort Lauderdale. He says it's the world's largest butterfly zoo and the first in the Western Hemisphere. Eighty species from five continents are flying here, their wings streaking bright color through the huge screened rooms.

A retired engineer and self-trained lepidopterist, or butterfly specialist, Boender is the kind of guy who will cheerfully discuss his passion while several butterflies crawl around his face, tasting his perspiration with their unfurled proboscises.

He hopes people who come to see his butterflies will be inspired to create little butterfly worlds in their own back yards. He says anyone can do it.

Attracting butterflies to your yard is relatively easy, but like any good host, you must provide for your guests' needs.

Butterflies eat flower nectar. They need upright flowers, with tubes, called "corollas," into which they insert their proboscises to feed.

For nectar sources in Southern climates, Boender recommends planting pentas (Pentas lanceolata), a perennial that blooms year-round in pink, white, red and lilac, and attracts many species of butterfly; lantana, any variety; fire bush (Hamelia patens), whose red flowers attract Sulphurs, Julias, Gulf Fritillaries and Zebra Longwings; and blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta), a tall shrub whose flowers appear on long spikes, and which is good for White Peacock butterflies, Sleepy Orange Sulphurs, Gulf Fritillaries, Zebra Longwings, Julias and Skippers.

Try buddleia, purslane, scarlet milkweed, Mexican and Brazilian flame vine. Other suggestions include heliotrope and ageratum.

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