Pagoda Flower, Clerodendrum paniculatum

Pagoda flower closeup
Pagoda flower closeup. Florida Museum photo by Ryan Fessenden

“Butterfly Rainforest” staff are often asked which plants best attract butterflies. While Pentas will be at the top of any list on the subject, things get murkier farther down the list. By this I mean certain plants will attract specific types of butterflies far more successfully than others.

Which brings us to today’s subject, the Pagoda Flower, Clerodendrum paniculatum. The Pagoda Flower is in the mint family, Lamiaceae, and has a wide native range, from India to Southeast Asia. It can grow to be 6 feet or taller and at least as wide, and in the “Rainforest” is a staple of summer.

The Pagoda Flower is a favorite of swallowtails and it is not uncommon to see six or more butterflies feeding at once on one large flower cluster in the “Rainforest” exhibit. This is possible because a flower cluster can have hundreds of flowers, many open at the same time, and a mature plant can have a flower cluster over a foot tall and nearly as wide! Pagoda Flowers are tropical in nature and are evergreen in South Florida, but in North Central Florida they can be treated as perennials, freezing in winter and coming back in spring.

The Pagoda Flower tends to prefer wet soil and is happiest in filtered light or morning sun. Be on the lookout for new plants popping up nearby as the Pagoda Flower does like to spread by suckers like many other species of Clerodendrum. The plant is available during the Butterfly Plant Sale from time to time so if you are interested, please feel free to ask.