fruit attracts small butterflies like this
colorful Pearl Crescent.
I looked at the small groundcover from a distance, it
appeared to be alive. In reality it was being hit upon
by more small butterflies than I had ever seen at one
time. I was looking at a large patch of native frog
know what you are thinking. Frog fruit sounds like
something Kermit might have for a snack or perhaps
gracing the top of some salad. But frog fruit known
botanically as Phyla nodiflora is a most incredible
groundcover native to 24 states, from Oregon eastward to
Missouri and Pennsylvania and then everywhere south.
if you think frog fruit sounds funny, consider the
official USDA common name, turkey tangle fogfruit.
Notice it is not "frog" but "fog."
It is in the verbena family and produces small white
verbena-like flowers nonstop for about six months. It
does spread vigorously, which is kind of what you want
in a groundcover.
the National Butterfly Center, in Mission, Tex., where
the butterflies had it covered that day, the conditions
were torrid: high heat, brisk winds and virtually no
rain. The plant performed superbly. It is so tough that
some gardeners give up on grass in favor of a frog fruit
lawn. There, on the Texas-Mexico border, it reached
about three to four inches tall.
was so resilient there that I presumed it to be a native
only to that region, never researching it further. Then
after moving to Georgia I was stunned to see it growing
at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, and my eyes
were opened to the wide range of adaptability of this
are growing it at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens
in soil much more fertile than where I was growing it in
Mission. The soil is rich with organic amendments like
composted cotton burrs, also called gin trash. This
luxuriously rich soil couple with irrigation is
producing a plant that is growing like itís on
steroids. It has reached 8 inches in height and could be
sheared if needed.
just as it did in Deep South Texas, the frog fruit is
bringing out the little butterflies, like Crescents,
Checkerspots and Skippers. Then as if there were some
flashing sign that said tiny pollinators welcome, small
bees and wasps have appeared.
are other little ones you will see as well. At the
National Butterfly Center the frog fruit was the
favorite visiting spot of little children, preschoolers,
kindergartners and first graders. While the older
students were fixated on larger butterflies, a trait
commonly seen with adults, the little butterflies were
favorites with younger children. It was common, seeing
them bent over, or on their knees watching this feasting
of the miniatures.
it is a nectar source for all, it is a host plant as
well. This is the larval food of the small but colorful
Phaon Crescent and the larger extraordinary beautiful
White Peacock butterfly. If the thought of caterpillars
much bothers you, I promise youíll never have a less
than picturesque plant.
fruit is not a staple of the garden center. In fact, you
will most likely only find it at progressive garden
centers specializing in native plants. We had no problem
locating plugs or tiny liners that we grew up for our
plant sale. They didnít hang around long.
fruit blooms best in sun. Surprisingly, though, they do
quite well given some shade during the day. Anticipate
each plant will spread at least three feet. Like all
plants they will need moisture to get established, but
once acclimated they are among the toughest in the
you need groundcover for a tough area, this may be your
best choice. If you are creating a backyard pollinator
habitat, then this will be a great addition. The frog
fruit will also excel as a spiller plant in baskets and
you want to attract the little ones, from butterflies,
to bees and children, too, this is a choice plant. What
child could resist a name like Frog Fruit?