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?

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
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
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

Perennial plants for butterfly garden
June 18, 2007 - Hello, I live in Plano, TX and I am trying to create a backyard garden which will attract butterflies. I prefer bulbs and perennials so that I will not have to replant again and again like annuals. A...
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

Food for butterflies in Austin
April 21, 2013 - Mr. Smarty Plants, my kids and I are raising Painted Lady butterflies from caterpillars but it's still too cold to release them (oddly cool spring we're having!) If they mate and lay eggs, what loc...
view the full question and answer

Growth rate of non-native Asclepias curassavica
April 29, 2014 - As a volunteer at the National Butterfly center, I wonder how long from starting the seeds until the plant reaches approximately 20 cm tall does it take a tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica) to ...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center