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Garden Obstacles: Want Butterflies? You Need Host Plants!

Everybody wants a butterfly garden to see these magnificent creatures flitting from flower to flower. Unfortunately, the most important part is usually overlooked, the host plants. Host plants are specific plants that feed the larval stage of the lovely butterfly. Here’s a short list of host plants and the larvae they are hosting.

Acer rubrum (Red Maple) - Cecropia Moth

Actaea racemosa - Black Cohosh - Spring Azure

Apios americanus (American Groundnut) - Silver-spotted Skipper

Aquilegia canadensis (Wild Columbine) - Columbine Duskywing

Amorpha canescens (Lead Plant) - Dogface sulfur, Gray Hairstreak

Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem) - Delaware Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Cobweb Skipper

Aristolochia durior (Dutchman’s Pipe) - Pipevine swallowtail

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry) - Hoary Elfin, Brown Elfin

Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokeberry) - Coral Hairstreak

Aruncus dioicus (Goat’s Beard) - Dusky Azure

Asarum canadense (Wild Ginger) - Pipevine swallowtail


Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), Asclepias incarnata ssp pulchra (Showy Swamp Milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed), Asclepias exaltata (Poke Milkweed), Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed), Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed), Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed) - Milkweed Tussock Moth, Monarch

Asimina triloba (Pawpaw) - Zebra swallowtail, Pawpaw Sphinx


Doellingeria umbellata (Flat-topped Aster) - Pearl Crescent, Harris’ Checkerspot

Symphyotrichum laeve (Smooth Aster) - Pearl Crescent

Symphyotrichum novae angliae (New England Aster) - Pearl Crescent, Checkerspot

Symphyotrichum novae belgii (New York Aster) - Pearl Crescent

Baptisia australis (False Indigo) - Wild Indigo Duskywing, Eastern Tailed-Blue, Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, Frosted Elfin, and Hoary Edge

Baptisia tinctora (Wild Indigo) - Frosted Elfin, Wild Indigo Duskywing

Betula nigra (River Birch) - Mourning Cloak, Luna Moth, Polyphemous Moth

Betula papyrifera (White Birch) - Luna Moth

Betula populifolia (Gray Birch) - Easter Tiger Swallowtail

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats Grama) - Green Skipper, Sheep Skipper, Dotted Skipper, Orange Skipperling

Callicarpa americana (American Beautybush) - Spring Azure, Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Callirhoe involucrata (Poppy Mallow) - Gray Hairstreak

Campsis radicans (Trumpet Vine) - Trumpet Vine Sphinx Moth

Carex stricta (Tussock Sedge) - Mulberry Wing, Eyed Brown, Black Dash

Carya species (Hickory) - Banded Hairstreak

Chelone glabra (White Turtlehead) - Baltimore Checkerspot

Celtis occidentalis (Common Hackberry) - Question Mark, Tawny Emperor, American Snout, Mourning Cloak

Cercis canadensis (Redbud) - Henry’s Elfin

Ceanothus americana (New Jersey Tea) - Spring Azure, Summer Azure, Mottled Duskywing

Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge Pea) - Gray Hairstreak

Cornus racemosa (Gray Dogwood) - Gray Hairstreak

Diospyros virginiana (Common Persimmon) - Luna Moth

Fagus grandifolia (American Beech) - Early Hairstreak

Fragaria virginiana (Wild Strawberry) - Gray Hairstreak, Grizzled Skipper

Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey Locust) - Silver Spotted Skipper

Heliopsis helianthoides (Ox-eye Daisy) - Painted Lady, Baltimore Checkerspot

Ilex opaca (American Holly) - Henry’s elfin

Ilex verticillata (Winterberry) - Harris’ Three-Spot Moth, Black-shouldered Gray Moth

Juglans nigra (Black Walnut) - Banded Hairstreak, Luna Moth

Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Red Cedar) - Juniper Hairstreak

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) - Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum) - Luna Moth

Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree) - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay) - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Sweetbay Silkmoth, Spicebush Swallowtail

Mimulus ringens (Monkey Flower) - Common Buckeye, Baltimore Checkerspot

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) - Delaware Skipper, Dotted Skipper

Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine) - Gray Hairstreak, Imperial Moth

Prunus maritima (Beach Plum) - Coral Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, Striped Hairstreak

Prunus serotina (Black Cherry) - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple

Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry) - Small-eyed Sphinx Moth

Ptelea trifoliata (Wafer Ash) - Black Swallowtail

Pycnanthemum flexuosum (Mountain Mint) - Gray Hairstreak

Pycnanthemum virginiana (Common Mountain Mint) - Tobacco Budworm

Quercus species (Oak) Host Plant Superstars - Banded Hairstreak and so many, many more butterflies and moths

Rhexia virginica (Meadow Beauty) - Gray Hairstreak

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant Sumac) - Red-banded Hairstreak

Rhus copallinum (Winged Sumac) - Red-banded Hairstreak, Luna Moth

Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac) - Hairstreak

Rhus typhina (Staghorn Sumac) - Luna Moth, Spring Azure

Rudbeckia hirta (Brown-eyed Susan) - Gorgone Checkerspot, Bordered Patch

Salix discolor (Pussy Willow) - Mourning Cloak, Viceroy

Salix nigra (Black Willow) - Viceroy, Red-spotted Purples

Sassafras albidum (Sassafras) - Spicebush Swallowtail

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) - Indian Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Cobweb Skipper

Solidago sempervirens (Seaside Goldenrod) - Wavy-lined emerald

Sorghastrum nutans (Indian Grass) - Pepper-and-Salt Skipper

Spirea alba (Meadowsweet) - Spring Azure

Tridens flavus (Purple Top Grass) - Broad-winged Skipper, Little Glassywing Skipper, Large Wood Nymph, Crossline Skipper

Vaccinium angustifolium (Lowbush Blueberry) - Pawpaw Moth and several other moths

Vaccinium corymbosum (Highbush Blueberry) - Brown Elfin

Verbena hastata (Blue Vervain) - Common Buckeye

Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed) - Parthenice Tiger Moth

Viburnum dentatum (Arrowwood) - Spring Azure, Saddleback caterpillar (Slug Moth) which can cause a very painful sting so admire from a distance

Viburnum opulus var. americanum (American Cranberrybush) - Spring Azure


Viola labradorica (Labrador Violet), Viola pedata (Birdsfoot Violet), Viola sororia (Common Violet), Viola striata (Striped Violet) - Fritillaries

Wisteria frutescens (American Wisteria) - Silver Spotted Skipper, Long-tailed Skipper

Zizia aptera (Heartleaf Golden Alexanders) - Black Swallowtail

Zizia aurea (Golden Alexanders) - Black Swallowtail

All plants are available from KMS Native Plants LLC.


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