Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - August 06, 2009

From: Mission, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Herbs/Forbs
Title: What species of Aristolochia occur in Hidalgo County, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

What species of Aristolochia or are in the Aristolochiaceae family occur in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, particularly Hidalgo Co., TX. Both Pipevine and Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies occur down here, but I cannot find the species they would use.

ANSWER:

The  Aristilochiaceae, or Birthwort family is a family of flowering plants with 8 genera and about 400 species. The type genus is Aristolochia, also known as pipevine. Many members of Aristolochia contain the toxin aristolochic acid which discourages herbivores. Pipevine swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on pipevine, and the caterpillars dine on the plant but are not affected by the toxin. This causes the adult butterfly to taste bad to predators, thus affording them some protection. The adults are pretty consistent in their choice of plants where they lay their eggs.

Our Native Plant Database   lists 8 species of Aristolochia that are found in the US, six of which occur in Texas. Four of these occur in south Texas, and two species are known to occur in Hidalgo County.

Aristolochia erecta (swanflower), larval host for Battus philenor, Hidalgo County.  This is very likely the species attracting Pipevine Swallowtails to your garden.  The plants often grow in grassy areas and because they're very small with long narrow leaves, they are almost invisible in grass.  Watching a female Pipevine Swallowtail fluttering about a grassy area and then inspecting the places she alights will often reveal the location of Swanflower in the grass.

Aristolochia pentandra (Marsh's dutchman's pipe),  not listed as a larval host, Hidalgo County.  This species' habitat is restricted to wetland areas.

Aristolochia tomentosa (woolly dutchman's pipe) , larval host for Battus philenor,  Bexar County.

Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia snakeroot) , larval host for Battus philenor Edwards and Bandera Counties.

The other Pipevine swallowtail that occurs in Hidalgo county is Battus polydamas, but its larval host is listed only as Aristolochia species.  This butterfly prefers the more toxic pipevines as larval host plants, so it is likely that Polydamas Swallowtails are mainly attracted to Marsh's Dutchman's-pipe and exotic Aristolochia species grown in private gardens. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Butterfly Bush Alternatives in New Egypt NJ
June 14, 2015 - I have a Non Native Butterfly Bush near my house. I heard that it could be invasive. What alternative plants could replace this bush as it is a butterfly magnet in late summer. Swallowtales and monarc...
view the full question and answer

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

Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project
July 30, 2012 - We have a group of girl scouts who want to sell 'crafts' at a farmers market. I am wanting to steer the moms and girls in a different direction. I was wondering if you think that butterfly weed woul...
view the full question and answer

Pollinators for Washington State
June 26, 2015 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am removing invasive knotweed in the Pacific Northwest and I would like to provide native plant alternatives that would flower and provide pollen in the late summer/fall f...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly garden for TN
May 09, 2012 - Hello! I recently moved into a new house near Mosheim, Tennessee (37818) and I am wanting to start a butterfly garden. I am requesting information how to get this started. What soil, plants, and flowe...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.