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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - July 03, 2009

From: Brighton, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Attracting butterflies in Tennessee
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

What flowers and plants do the caterpillars in Tennessee eat? And do you know what butterflies live in Tipton Co. Tennessee?

ANSWER:

Those are definitely connected questions; certain plants may attract specific butterflies. The Phyciodes Phaon (Phaon Crescent) is specifically identified for your county and appears across the southern United States. A few of the plants or trees in your area that attract butterflies include Acer rubrum (red maple), Aquilegia canadensis (red columbine), Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), Asimina triloba (pawpaw), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed), Carya alba (mockernut hickory), Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry), Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam), Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea), Cornus florida (flowering dogwood), Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed), Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern).

There are many, many more and here is how you may locate which plants attract which butterflies and moths. On the Wildflower website, click on Explore Plants, then Plant Database, and then Recommended Species. This takes you to the 121 species of plants of all types recommended for Tennessee. One by one you click on the plant name, scroll down to the section on Benefits, and you will find which butterflies or moths frequent this plant species, if any. Alternately, cross referenced through Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) on the Recommended Species page, there is a section under Special Collections just for butterflies and moths. You can reverse your search by clicking on the plant and look for TN (Tennessee) under the distribution of that insect species.

If you are interested in gardening to attract butterflies, you may want to read how to do this in the How To section of the Wildflower website and a butterfly bibliography. A great resource for you is the butterfly section of Birds and Blooms Magazine. Another site (Discover Life) will help you identify different species of butterflies that you may see in your garden. Avian Pursuits lists butterflies NOT seen in Tipton County, Tennessee. If this is a recent interest or hobby for you, you have picked one that will provide you a lifetime of pleasure.

 


Acer rubrum

Aquilegia canadensis

Asclepias incarnata

Asimina triloba

 


Asclepias tuberosa

Callicarpa americana

Carpinus caroliniana

Ceanothus americanus

Conoclinium coelestinum

Coreopsis lanceolata

Comptonia peregrina

Coreopsis tinctoria
 

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