Like many specialized butterfly species, the fate of the Atala butterfly, Eumaeus atala, is tied to that of its host plant, Coontie, Zamia integrifolia. In the 1960s, the Atala butterfly was thought to be extinct following massive industrial-scale harvesting of Coontie in the region. The Atala butterfly was later rediscovered in 1979. However still rare, the Atala butterfly population has made a comeback with the cultivation of Coontie and its use as a popular landscape plant in South Florida.
Coontie, the only cycad native to Florida, is a handsome addition to any landscape. If you would like to attract the Atala butterfly to your garden, a handful of plants are needed to support them. Visit www.fnps.org/plants and search Coontie to learn more about this plant!
If you’re in Broward County, look for Coontie at Ann Kolb Nature Center and keep your eyes peeled for the Atala butterfly!
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