Plants for Fireflies

Plants for Fireflies

If we want to plant natives for fireflies, what should we try to accomplish with those plants?

Priorities:

  • Provide habitat for females
    Mating habitat (diverse canopy heights). Places for her to lay eggs.
  • Provide habitat for larvae
    Plants that builds soil/leaf litter, places to find food (snails, worms, slugs, soft-bodied insects), trap moisture in the soil.
  • Operational cover for flashing adults
    Woody plants with broad leaves for males and females to hide and flash from. Tall grasses whose blades provide narrow hiding places and long stems to take a flight from.

Plant List

These are plants that are described as facultative wetland plants, which are plants that occur in riparian areas but do well in wet and non-wet habitats. These are good plants to consider if you are planting for fireflies in areas that need to be restored or if you are starting from scratch to encourage fireflies to land.

Some of the plants on this list are found in firefly habitat so often that they serve as cornerstone species, helping to sustain diverse plant communities, which in turn support multiple species of fireflies from various genera, such as Photinus, Photuris, Pyractomena, and others.

The plants listed below are specific to Texas but are also found in many other areas of the US. Be sure to get to know your native plants, especially wetland plants to understand what might be right for your area.

Grasses

  • Inland sea oats or Broadleaf uniola (Chasmanthium latifolium). Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens). Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia linheimeri). Big sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) – Mexican firefly species like this variety. Virginia wildrye (Elymus virginicus). Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula). Vine mesquite (Hopia obtusa). Native bluestem grasses (Andropogon sp.) can be helpful for habitat restoration efforts.

Forbs

  • Asters – Tall aster/Spiny aster (Aster praealtus and Aster Spinosa). Lindheimer senna (Senna lindheimeriana). Frogfruit (phlya nodiflora). Frostweed (Verbesina virginica). Goldenrod (Solidago altissima). Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Late boneset (Eupatorium serotinum). River fern (Thelypteris ovata var. lindheimeri).

Vines

  • Purple leatherflower (Clematis pitcheri). Morning glory (Lpomoea sp.). Alamo vine (Merremia dissecta). Dewberry (Rubus trivialis).

Trees and Woody Plants

  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Pecan (Carya illinionensis). Little Walnut (Juglans microcarpa). Cottonwood (Populus sp.). American Elder (Sambucus canadensis). Ash – Green, Mexican, Velvet ash (Fraxinus sp.). Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata). Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor). Hackberry (Celtis sp.). Elm Trees (Ulmus sp.). Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa). Dogwood (Cornus drummondii). Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria). Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis). Goldenball Leadtree (Leucaena retusa).
  •  Live Oak. Chinquapin Oak. Shumard Oak. Bur Oak. (Quercus sp.)