the show

Identify Butterfly and Moth Caterpillars

encore date: December 17, 2011

original air date: October 15, 2011

National Wildlife Federation Habitat Steward Meredith OReilly identifies butterfly and moth caterpillars and their plant larval food. Daphne answers how to read a plant tag and features native goldenball leadtree. Trisha Shirey demonstrates handy tools she hauls in her garden tote bag.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Betty Ronga Native Plant Garden Design

On a hilltop overlooking Lake Travis in Leander, see how Betty Ronga turned her new garden into a butterfly, bee, and bird sanctuary. When she and her husband, Gerald, built their house of two dreams, they wanted it to be heavenly for the wildlife, too. Its continual rotation of flowering and larval plants, and a stone-ledged pond attract wildlife in all seasons. Nearby, Betty and Gerald harvest vegetables and fruits for their own kitchen. Meander with them through a front courtyard of fragrance, color, and Mexican art.

Watch more "On Tour" videos on YouTube →

Question of the Week

The tag on my crape myrtle lists a different mature height than what I read online. Which one is correct?

Thank you to Aimee Casper for this great question! This has happened to all of us. In her case, the tag listed her crape myrtle as growing 12 to 15′ tall, but she found online sources that indicated a mature size of 25-30′. Well, as you might guess, this made a big difference to her. A 10 to 15 feet difference in plant size really changes where a plant should be placed in the landscape. Unfortunately, this problem is usually the rule, not the exception. You might even hear me give different information on a particular plant than you see on the label or from other sources.

So which is right? The label or the researched sources? This is where you really need to use your skills of logic and give some careful thought to the situation. First, try to see where the plant was produced and understand the climate of origin. Did the plant originate in northern California? If so, the plant may get larger in our lower elevation gardens, where we have more warmth and sunlight.

Another question to answer: will you be able to give the plant ample water and space? That will also lead to a larger plant. But, sometimes our plants will be SMALLER than what the tag indicates due to our moderate rainfall.

Another area where the label often differs from your unique reality is in the planting instructions, such as full sun vs. shade. Full sun on a label very rarely means the type of full sun that is common in our summers, but it might.

Also look at the tag for cold hardiness.

The best way to know for sure is to ask your local nurseries. They have long-term experience with the plants they sell and can tell you what to expect in your own garden.

If you rely on the internet, look for sites that are in Texas, like Texas AgriLife Extension. Information for Virginia may not apply to us!

Here’s a Texas AgriLife guide to crape myrtles and their sizes.

Watch more Question of the Week videos on YouTube →

Plant of the Week

Goldenball Lead Tree

Goldenball Lead Tree

Leucaena retusa

Goldenball leadtree is a deciduous (though partially evergreen in some areas) slender shrubby plant, which is usually trained to be a small tree. I find that its wispy, light-green divided leaves instill a sense of peace in a light breeze. It is quite a delicate specimen when compared to our more beefy trees, and it looks great in the garden if given a place all its own, to stand out and be a focal point. It also looks lovely when accompanied by smaller shrubs as accents. Goldenball leadtree is covered in fragrant round yellow flowers from spring through summer. It normally stays around 15' tall and 5 to 10' wide, but depending on where it is planted and how much water and sunlight it receives, it may get up to 25'. It has an airy, billowy habit, with small limbs that are easily broken in high winds. So this tree is best planted in a protected area, perhaps near the home or patio. It is also very drought and heat tolerant, requiring no to minimal supplemental irrigation.