produce pretty summer flowers, and the native Carolina
wild petunia is no exception.
wild petunia, scientifically known as Ruellia
caroliniensis, is a Coastal Plain native perennial that
returns each year from previous locations and from self-seedings,
according to Helen Hamilton, past president of the John
Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society, and
retired biology teacher living in Williamsburg, Va.
petunia blooms May through September, with each flower
lasting only a day but followed by other blooms in quick
succession. As the flowers fade, seeds form and eject
themselves into the air, meaning baby plants soon appear
anywhere and everywhere.
of all, wild petunia is not fussy about where it grows
— any soil is OK, full sun or part shade works and
drought doesn’t deter it.
lavender-blue, one-inch flowers are a bright spot in the
garden, growing only a foot or so tall on somewhat
straggly stems," says Hamilton.
plant’s dark green lance-shaped leaves look wonderful
alongside orange butterfly milkweed, jewelweed and
flowers benefit pollinators, including large bees.
Carolina wild petunia is also host to the common buckeye
butterfly, giving its caterpillars leaves to feed on
while they develop into adults.
relative of Carolina wild petunia, Mexican petunia (Ruellia
brittoniana) is native to Mexico. Listed as invasive in
several states, the aggressive annual — or perennial
further south — and its popular cultivar called Purple
Showers is sold along with other cultivars, including
the poplar Wave petunias.
garden petunia (Petunia x hybrida) is not closely
related, and is actually a member of the potato family,
which includes tobacco, tomatoes and chili peppers,
according to Hamilton.
wild petunia is sometimes sold in garden centers, and is
often found in native plant sales or online nurseries.
Deer do not bother the fuss-free plant.
buckeye butterflies are easy to spot — brown wings
bordered with cream, yellow or orange and several
prominent eyespots, which may help protect them from
hungry birds, according to Hamilton.
the ground, common buckeye, or Junonia coenia, usually
rests with open wings on bare ground or low plants,
especially mountain mints, plantains, asters, tickseed
sunflower, sedum and dogbane.
adults live only a few days, usually no more than 10,
they are very interested in mating," says Hamilton.
buckeyes perching on low ground are watching for
females; they will chase away another male buckeye and
encourage a female buckeye to land where mating can
mating, female buckeyes deposit just one tiny whitish
egg on a leaf bud or the upper side of a leaf. As they
progress through four moltings, the larvae
(caterpillars) are black with rows of orange and cream
spots from which emerge short hairy black spines,
continues Hamilton. The head is also black with an
orange spot and two short black spines on top. Larvae
transform into pupae where metamorphosis is completed
— May through October, two to three broods appear.
buckeyes lay their eggs only on the plants that the
developing caterpillars will eat. In Hampton Roads, Wild
petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) is a favorite host plant
along with smooth beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) and
blue vervain (Verbena hastata), says Hamilton.