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
2 ratings

Saturday - August 22, 2009

From: Saint Paul, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Host plants for Painted Lady Butterflies (Vanessa cardui)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am looking for host plants for the Painted Lady Butterfly that I can plant in my school's (I am a teacher) native plant/butterfly garden. As part of the curriculum, each Fall our 2nd graders study Painted Lady butterflies from their larva stage and then release them outside. We have an unfinished garden area and I would like to incorporate the host plants for these butterflies for the larvae as well as adults in the garden so that the children can see them in their natural habitat. Anything I have read is very vague - mallow, thistle (but what varieties?) Any suggestions would be gratefully welcomed! Thank you very much and I look forward to your response.

ANSWER:

According to Butterflies and Moths of North America the main larval host plant for Vanessa cardui (Painted Lady) butterflies are thistles and plants in the Family Malvaceae (Mallow Family).  They prefer nectar from flowers of plants in the Family Asteraceae (Aster Family) that are 3-6 feet high.  They especially like thistles, but also asters, blazing star, ironweed and Joe Pye weed.

Here are four thistle species that are native to Minnesota:

Cirsium discolor (field thistle) and Cirsium muticum (swamp thistle).

There are also four species of plants in the Family Malvaceae that are native to Minnesota:

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow), Hibiscus laevis (halberdleaf rosemallow), Napaea dioica (glademallow) and Sphaeralcea coccinea (scarlet globemallow).

Others of the plants listed above that are native to Minnesota are:

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus (spotted trumpetweed or Joe-Pye weed), Vernonia baldwinii (Baldwin's ironweed), and Vernonia fasciculata (prairie ironweed).

Blazing Stars:  Liatris aspera (tall blazing star)Liatris punctata (dotted blazing star) and Liatris pycnostachya (prairie blazing star).

Asters:  Eurybia macrophylla (bigleaf aster)Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve (smooth blue aster), Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster), and Symphyotrichum shortii (Short's aster).

A combination of any of these plants would make a lovely garden.  Not only would they attract the Painted Lady butterflies, but you probably noticed that many of these plants are hosts to other butterfly species as well.  Be sure to check the growing conditions for each of the species above to be sure they match the conditions at your site.


Cirsium discolor

Cirsium muticum

Callirhoe involucrata

Hibiscus laevis

Napaea dioica

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Eupatoriadelphus maculatus

Vernonia baldwinii

Vernonia fasciculata

Liatris aspera

Liatris punctata

Liatris pycnostachya

Eurybia macrophylla

Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Symphyotrichum shortii

 

 

More Wildlife Gardens Questions

Native plants for butterflies and birds in a park in Lampasas, Texas
May 19, 2009 - There is an area along a creek in Lampasas, Texas that I want to establish as a butterfly and bird park. There are various native plants there now, but I want to add plants that are hosts for butterf...
view the full question and answer

Plants for no sun in Austin
May 12, 2010 - I need recommendations for shrubs that can withstand no sun, something that possibly blooms but does not attract bees, wasps, or any stinging insects (hummingbirds or butterflies ok).
view the full question and answer

Importance of native plants for wildlife.
March 04, 2008 - I just read Donald Tellamy's new book,Bringing Nature Home. He documents how native plants provide more nourishment for wildlife than introduced plants. The definition of native plants that I use is ...
view the full question and answer

Neighborhood association wanting wildflowers mowed from Grand Prairie TX
July 14, 2013 - For at least 15 years, I have been fostering growth of wildflowers in 60% of my 90x400' yard which include 150' utility trunkline easement in which I can plant no trees. This year, we had volunteer ...
view the full question and answer

A list of bloom times for wildflowers in Michigan
July 03, 2013 - Hello, I am new to bee keeping and live in central Michigan. Can you tell me or do you know where I could find a list of the Michigan wild flower bloom times? This would be very helpful to me. Than...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center