Milkweed and Monarch Butterfly Mania

Host plants

Butterflies need several things to survive. Food - Butterflies eat a different food than their caterpillars. Most butterflies need nectar.
They get it from flowers. Some butterflies are attracted to rotting fruits. The caterpillars (larva) eat leafy plants. In many cases, the
caterpillars eat only a single kind of plant. These plants are called the host plant. The female butterfly lays her eggs on those plants,
because they furnish the food that caterpillars need.

Butterflies also need minerals. You might see some gathered on a shallow muddy spot sipping away. Some butterflies even sip on dung or bird droppings.

If you are considering growing a habitat garden, then a list of plants that will feed butterfly caterpillars will be handy. This list applies to Northeast and Mid Atlantic region of the USA. It is by no means complete. Although many of the plants may be found at local nurseries, some are best located by searching for native plant sources on the Internet.


Larval Host plant

Black Swallowtail

Fennel, Parsley, Carrot, Dill

These are all easily grown from seed. Available each spring as starts at garden stores

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush - native Spicebush

Sassafras Native tree Sassafras

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Wild Cherries and Tulip Poplar, Tulip Poplar 2- native trees

Zebra Swallowtail

PawPaw - native tree (source below)

Cabbage white - non native, pest unintentionally introduced to Quebec in 1890

nasturtium and members of the "cole" family like the broccoli and cabbage plants in your vegetable garden.

Great spangled fritillary


Pearl Crescent





Snapdragons, Verbenas

Mourning Cloak

Willows, Elms, Aspens - native trees

Red-Spotted Purple

Willows, wild cherries - native trees

Common Sulfur

clover, alfalfa, vetches, legumes

American Copper

sheep sorrel, curly dock

Eastern-Tailed Blues

flowers of legumes clovers, tick trefoil, wild pea *caterpillar over winters in pea and bean pods

Red Admiral

nettles and hops

Silver-Spotted Skipper

locusts - native trees Wisteria

Eastern Comma

Elm, hops, nettle

Painted Lady

thistles, hollyhock and mallow

Hackberry Emperor

hackberries - native tree

Luna Moth

native trees - sweet gum, hickories, walnuts, and sumacs

Polyphemus moth

oak, willow, maple, birch

Isabella tiger moth

dandelion and plantain

Viceroy Butterfly willow family, poplars, cottonwoods

I have found Tripple Brook Farm a reliable resource for some native plants like pawpaw trees.

Caterpillars of Eastern Forests - great for ID'ing

Back to Milkweed and Monarch Butterfly Mania

ivy rule

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