Species of the Month – March 2023 – New Jersey Tea, Wild Lupine and Butterfly Milkweed

Restoring Lands, One Seed At A Time – A Spotlight on New Jersey Tea, Wild Lupine, Butterfly Milkweed

By Emily Ratch, Stewardship and Outreach Technician

Over the past 6 months, some of the LPBLT nature reserves have undergone major restoration efforts, including logging of monoculture pine plantations, prescribed burns to remove felled logs, and selective thinning of trees to increase available light and growing space for oak savanna habitats to thrive. The next step after the removal of species is to reintroduce native plant populations. These native species include grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. The reintroduction of these species will enrich the biodiversity of the Long Point Basin, and provide vital food sources for pollinators. 

The reintroduction of native plant species is a long, yet rewarding process. It starts with the harvest / collection of seeds in the fall. Our dedicated volunteers snipped, plucked, and gathered seeds from over 30 different native plant species found on LPBLT nature reserves. 

After seeds are collected, they must be processed and cleaned. This involves separating the debris, excess plant matter, soil, and casings from the seeds. Finally, after all of the processing is finished, the dispersal of these cleaned seeds on our restoration sites begins.

Much of this work has been accomplished by volunteer efforts. Over 100 hardworking volunteers have dedicated over 360 collective hours to this process.

Below are a few of the Oak Savanna indicator species that our volunteers and staff been collecting and processing.


Photos: Emily Ratch


New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

New Jersey Tea is a low-lying shrub species that is often found within dry plains and sandy areas including Oak Savanna habitats. The twigs of this species are a winter food source for grazers like White-tailed deer and rabbits. In the summertime, New Jersey Tea is vital for the survival of butterflies. The clusters of white flowers are a food source for pollinators, and the twigs are a wonderful host for butterfly larvae, specifically Azure and Duskywing butterflies. 

Fun Fact: New Jersey Tea earned its name during the American Revolution, serving as a substitute for imported tea. 

New Jersey Tea shrub in flower in spring. (Photo: David Eberly)

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

In my opinion, Wild Lupine is possibly one of the most beautiful wildflowers native to Oak Savanna regions! It has wonderfully unique leaves in a palmate formation and tall clustered flowers that range from purple, blue, white, and pink hues.

Wild Lupine is a vital food source for the larvae of butterflies and moths including the Clouded Sulfur, Eastern-tailed Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Silvery Blue, Wild Indigo Duskywing, and the rare and endangered Karner Blue butterfly. As caterpillars, these species will only feed on the leaves of Wild Lupine. These butterfly species rely on a large and healthy population of Wild Lupine for their survival. By repopulating Wild Lupine in areas where it has disappeared, we aim to create suitable habitats to encourage the return of rare species like the Karner Blue butterfly.

Striking Wild Lupine at the Harlow Dune Nature Reserve (Photo: Dan Marina)

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

This species is fairly common along the sandy plains of Long Point, Turkey Point, and Port Rowan. It is often found along roadsides, river banks, and dunes that experience full sun. This plant is known as an Oak Savanna indicator species because of how well-suited it is to the Oak Savanna environment. Wild populations are not commonly found in habitats other than Oak Savanna, although it can grow well in home gardens and is a popular choice for gardeners wishing to introduce native species into their yards.

Pollinators are attracted to its flowers because of the vibrant colour and generous amounts of nectar. During the summer you can find Monarchs, Swallowtails, and many species of bees feasting on its sweet nectar. You may also find caterpillars munching on its leaves. Species such as Monarchs, Tiger moths, and Tussock moths may use the Butterfly milkweed as a host plant until they reach maturity.  

The seeds of Butterfly Milkweed are teardrop shaped and are easy to sow. They require a period of cold wet stratification to germinate.

Butterfly Milkweed flowers are full of sweet nectar. (Photo: iNaturalist)


To learn more about volunteering, please sign up here!

Brianne Curry

Outreach & Fund Development Manager