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Old 12-02-2008, 12:44 PM   #1
Cirsium's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Midwest
Default Butterfly Gardening Host Plants

Winter is a great time to be planning that new or improved butterfly garden. (And yes, it's definitely winter my area! ).

Every butterfly garden will benefit with the addition of selected host plants. Host plants are the specific plants that each species of butterfly uses to raise their young. Each species of butterfly has it's own choices of plants that it will lay eggs on, and that are able to meet the needs of it's caterpillars. For most species, the choices are quite limited. The Monarch's, for example will only use Milkweeds (Asclepias species); and the Karner Blue will only use Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis). Some butterflies are less choosy; the Painted Lady can use over 100 different plants for host plants.

'Host plants" is actually a bit of an understatement. They could more accurately be called 'Life plants'. Caterpillars cannot survive without their specific host plants. And without caterpillars there would be no butterflies.

The first step is choosing your host plants is to find out which butterflies are in your area. One good way to do this is to use the website:
Just click on your state and you will get a list of all the butterflies that have been documented in your state. You can even click on your county and get a list of all the butterflies that have been documented there.

When you click on the names of the butterflies in the list, you will get photo's of the butterflies along with a lot of information about their life cycle, etc. It also lists some of the host plants for each species; but this list of host plants is rather incomplete, so you may have to refer to some good butterfly books to get a better list of host plants

The list on the website also does not distinguish between native and invasive plants, so be sure to check out whether any plant that they list is invasive before you make your selection of host plants. You don't want invasive plants wrecking your butterfly garden or your landscape. There are plenty of wonderful native plants (every butterfly has at least one) that you can use for your 'Life plants'. Many will do double duty as excellent nectar plants for the adult butterflies.
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