Currently in bloom is the Smooth Aster (Aster laevis.) This is a lovely light purple flower in the daisy family that thrives in full sun to light shade and dry weather. It blooms from September through October, so this is an ideal perennial plant to add some color to your garden later into the fall. The wildlife benefit of this plant is that it is a larval host plant to a number of lepidopterans (butterflies and moths). Since it is a host plant to some lepidopterans and may have caterpillars on it, not only does it provide seed for birds and mammals, it provides additional bug protein to birds who may be migrating south.
Because it blooms later in the growing season, it is especially beneficial to butterflies like the monarch who are migrating south to their overwintering site when this plant is blooming. Monarchs need to stop and stock up on nectar along their lengthy journey south, so having milkweed in the yard is beneficial earlier in the growing season for their larva (caterpillars), but the adults need fuel for their long trip and that’s where late blooming flowers come into play. Monarchs are not the only pollinators to enjoy the nectar from this aster.
A butterfly-like insect that has recently become quite prevalent outside is the Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides.) Skippers have chubby bodies, smaller wings, and the ends of their antennae are slightly hooked. Their name comes from their darting or skipping erratic flight patterns. The Woodland Skipper is an orange skipper with dark markings and can be found in most habitats with exception to deserts. These are entertaining to watch right now as they are very active and energetic little critters and are so plentiful this year.