Butterfly species and their host plants

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Want to attract more butterflies to your yard? Then double its appeal by offering host plants along with nectar plants. Why two kinds? Adult butterflies don’t have teeth and survive by sipping nectar from flowers, but their caterpillars have chewing mouthparts and survive by eating plants — host plants. 

No single host plant will work for all butterflies. Different species want different plants, ones that will be a suitable food source for their caterpillars after they hatch. For example, the female Monarch Butterfly sips nectar from many kinds of flowering plants, but will only lay her eggs on milkweed plants, while the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail wants Sycamore and willow trees as host plants. And, the Common Buckeye seeks out snapdragons on which to lay her eggs. So, plan to add several different kinds of plants.  More on attracting butterflies    

The right host plant is a matter of life or death for a caterpillar — if you pluck one off a parsley plant and place it on, say, an aster, it’ll starve to death. That’s because the plants aren’t related. There is such a tight bond between a caterpillar and its host plant that sometimes even a switch between two related plants will cause it to stop eating.

The butterflies listed below are some of the more common ones you may attract to your yard or garden if you add host plants. Note that some of these butterflies may not inhabit your particular area.

BUTTERFLY SPECIES AND THEIR HOST PLANTS

Key:  A=annuals; P=plant; T=tree; S=shrub; H=herb; V=vegetable; L=legume; G=grass

SPECIESHOST PLANTSTYPE
American CopperSorrel, Curly DockH, P
American LadyPussy Toes, Pearly Everlasting, IronweedP
American SnoutHackberryT
Anise SwallowtailAnise, Fennel, Parsley, Dill, Parsnips, (Citrus)H, (T)
Baltimore CheckerspotTurtleheadP
Banded HairstreakOak, Walnut, HickoryT
Black SwallowtailDill, Parsley Fennel, ParsnipH
Buckeye(Snapdragons), Plantain, Toadflax(A), P
Cabbage White(Cabbage, collards), Brussels Sprouts(H), V
California DogfaceFalse IndigoP
California SisterOakT
Carolina SatyrGrassesG
Checkered SkipperMallow, HollyhockP
Cloudless SulphurPartridge Pea, SennaP
Colorado HairstreakOakT
Diana FritillaryVioletsP
DogfaceLead Plant, False Indigo, CloversP
Dotted CheckerspotBeardtonguesP
Dreamy DuskywingWillows, Poplars, AspensT
Eastern CommaNettles, Hops, (Elms)P, (T)
Eastern Tailed-blueClovers, Alfalfa, Wild PeaP, G, L
Eastern Tiger SwallowtailSycamore, WillowsT
Giant SwallowtailHop Tree, Citrus, Rue, Prickly AshP
Gorgone CheckerspotSunflowersP
Gray HairstreakMallows, Clovers, (Cotton), HawthornP, (A), T
Great-spangled FritillaryVioletsP
Gulf FritillaryPassion-vinesV
Hackberry EmperorHackberryT
Horace's DuskywingOaks: Red, White, Scrub, Post, LiveT
Karner BlueLupine, LegumesP
Marine BlueAlfalfa, Legumes, (Mesquite)P, (T)
MonarchMilkweedsP
Mourning CloakWillows, Poplars, Cottonwood, Elms, AldersT
Orange SulphurCloversP
Oregon SwallowtailSagebrush, ParsleyP
Painted CrescentAstersP
Painted LadyThistles, Hollyhock, Mallows, LegumesP
Pearl CrescentAstersP
Pipevine SwallowtailPipevinesV
QueenMilkweedsP
Question MarkNettles, False Nettle, Elms, (Hackberry)P, (T)
Red AdmiralNettles, (Hops)P, (V)
Red SatyrGrassesG
Red-banded HairstreakFallen leaves of (Sumacs), Oaks, Wax Myrtle(S), T
Red-spotted PurpleCherries, Oaks, Poplars, Willows, CottonwoodT
Regal FritillaryVioletsP
Sachem SkipperGrassesG
Sandia HairstreakBeargrassP
Satyr CommaNettlesP
Silver-spotted SkipperFalse Indigo, LocustP, T
Silvery CheckerspotBlack-eyed Susan, SunflowersP
Spicebush SwallowtailSpicebush, SassafrassS
Spring AzureBlack CherryT
Summer AzureFlowering Dogwood, New Jersey TeaS
Tawny EmperorElmsT
Two-tailed SwallowtailChokecherry, Ash, Hop TreeS, T
ViceroyWillows, Poplars, CottonwoodT
Zebra Longwing SwallowtailPawpawT
*Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui, by WelcomeWildlife.com (cc by-sa 3.0)
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