Bountiful Butterflies

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Why Butterflies?

Butterflies are attracted to and pollinate vivid flowers, which helps with the reproduction of flowering plants. Butterflies are essential pollinators for food crops, including artichokes and sunflowers. 

Many animals feed on butterflies and caterpillars, making them a critical species in the food web. According to ecology professor and author Doug Tallamy, it takes 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to raise one clutch of chickadee birds! The loss of butterflies or their host plants affects organisms that depend on them. 

You’re bound to encounter butterflies year-round at Precinct 4 parks. Use this guide to help you identify common butterflies and caterpillars, as well as an abundance of host and nectar plants.

BUTTERFLY LIFE CYCLE

RAISING CATERPILLARS

Host plants support our local butterfly populations as well as migrating populations. Many of the host plants listed in this guide are Texas natives, which butterflies can recognize. Native plants are adapted to local climate and habitats, and they require less garden maintenance.

Monarch 

Milkweed in the genus Asclepias, including green milkweed (A. viridis) and shore milkweed (A. perennis); some authorities discourage planting the non-native milkweed species, Mexican milkweed (A. curassavica), as a host species for Monarch butterflies. 

Pipevine Swallowtail

Plants in the genus Aristolochia, especially woolly pipevine (A. tomentosa), Dutchman’s pipevine (A. macrophylla), and Brazilian pipevine (A. fimbriata) 

Cloudless Sulphur

Sennas (including Senna lindheimeriana, S. corymbosa, and S. splendida) and partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) 

Gulf Fritillary

Passion flower vines (Passiflora), especially maypop (P. incarnata), blue passion vine (P. caerulea), and the hybrid Passiflora ‘Incense’. 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Black cherry (Prunus serotina), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera); birch (Betula species), ash (Fraxinus species), cottonwood (Populus species), and willow (Salix species) 

Black Swallowtail

Texas prairie parsley (Polytaenia texana), dill (Anethum graveolens), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and rue (Ruta graveolens) 

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and red bay (Persea borbonia) 

Question Mark 

Hackberry (Celtis species), American elm (Ulmus americana), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), nettles (Urtica species), and false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) 

Texan Crescent 

Branched foldwing (Dicliptera brachiata) and shrimp plant. 

Painted Lady

Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) and mallow family species, including hollyhock and various legume/bean family species. 

Funereal Duskywing

False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), and lupine (Lupinus species).

American Snout

Several species of hackberry (Celtis species).

ATTRACTING BUTTERFLIES

Nectar plants are the primary food source for most butterflies. By planting a variety of nectar plants, you can attract different species of butterflies. Native nectar plants not only add bright colors to your garden and attract butterflies, but they are also easy to grow and require little maintenance. 

Basics of Butterfly Gardening

  • Choose a location with plenty of sun and shelter from strong winds.
  • Prepare the soil well so it is fertile and has good drainage.
  • Plant a variety of nectar and host plants that bloom at various times throughout the year.
  • Include a source of water, like a shallow birdbath, and a basking area, like a flat rock.
  • Include a fruit-feeding station.
  • Avoid pesticides.
  • Expect other visitors to enjoy the butterfly garden too, like bees, hummingbirds, frogs, and lizards.

Ground Level Plants (0 to 2 Feet Tall)

  • Asters (Symphyotrichum species) 
  • Brown and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species) 
  • Mexican Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) 
  • Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) 
  • Milkweed (Asclepias species) 
  • Orange Zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida) 
  • Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea) 
  • Verbenas (Verbena species) 
  • Zinnias (Zinnia elegans and others) 

Mid-Level Plants (2 to 4 Feet Tall)

  • Bee Balm (Monarda species) 
  • Blazing Star (Liatris species) 
  • Cigar Plant (Cuphea ‘David Verity’) 
  • Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) 
  • Firecracker Plant (Russelia species) 
  • Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus) 
  • Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum) 
  • Lantana (Lantana species) 
  • Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) 
  • Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) 
  • Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) 
  • Porter Weed (Stachytarpheta species) 
  • Salvias (Salvia species) 

Tall Plants (Over 4 Feet Tall)

  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) 
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) 
  • Golden Dewdrop (Duranta erecta) 
  • Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens) 
  • Jatropha (Jatropha integerrima) 
  • Mexican Bauhinia (Bauhinia divaricata) 
  • Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) 
  • Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans) 
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