En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - July 17, 2009

From: Jacksonville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: What would replace non-native orange tree leaves in butterfly hatchery?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a very small orange tree that currently has dozens of caterpillars on it that look like bird droppings. I think I have narrowed them down to a swallowtail butterfly. I would love to let them mature but do not want to risk my orange tree that is just now starting to make a come back from last years invasion. So my question is. Is there any other leaves that the caterpillars would eat if I were to keep them in some sort of a butterfly hatchery? Thank you for your time.


If the Citrus sinensis were native to North America, we would direct you to the webpage for that plant, where we frequently have the names and pictures of butterflies that feed on a particular plant. However, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being raised. The orange originated in Southeast Asia, and has been heavily hybridized. Ordinarily, butterflies and moths prefer to feed on and use for larval hosts plants native to the same area that the butterfly is. Possibly the caterpillar you are seeing was imported with the plant; even though the orange tree was probably cultivated commercially in North America, it still may be sheltering a non-native butterfly through generations.

Since we are not entomologists and since we have no information on the orange tree in our database, let us refer you to the website of Butterfly and Moths of North America, also referred to as BAMONA.  The information on our native plant webpages originates with this organization, and they have many ways of helping you research the larval form you have found on your orange tree.

And, finally, here's another little snippet of information and pictures that we ran across that may or may not be germane to your question. It is from a website called Bug Guide, and has pictures of the Papilio cresphontes, Great Swallowtail, larva on an orange leaf.  


More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Plants for attracting butterflies in Austin
April 28, 2012 - My 9 year-old son is interested in finding butterfly eggs this Spring. His 3rd grade class is studying butterflies right now. I found a Wildflower Center article that lists several plants butterflie...
view the full question and answer

Hardy plants for Oklahoma raised garden at Oklahoma school
February 12, 2014 - I am planting a raised flower bed with fifth graders. It will have a little shade in the morning and evening possibly. What plants are durable and can withstand OK summer heat. We will be planting ...
view the full question and answer

Foundation plants for Albuquerque.
July 01, 2012 - Hello, I live in Albuquerque. I am looking for some native/xeric low water usage plants for foundation plants for my home. They will be foundation plants for a two story home that has a large ponde...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly egg kit from Spring Hill FL
October 27, 2011 - Could you please tell me all native plant(s) I can buy for my Sons Painted Lady Butterfly kit (eggs are going to hatch soon)and I don't know what to buy for the baby caterpillars to eat. I contacted ...
view the full question and answer

Is Passiflora 'Purple Haze' a host to Gulf Frittilary butterflies?
September 14, 2011 - Is the passion flower purple haze (pasionaria purple haze) a host plant to gulf frittilary butterflies as is the passiflora incarnata passion flower?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center