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
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

Literature on native plants and wildlife from Baltimore
September 04, 2010 - Can you tell me a good review of the literature on the relation between native plants and ecology; for example, a study might indicate how native plants support more birds or other wildlife.
view the full question and answer

Want to create a native wildlife habitat for our home in Wasau, WI.
August 18, 2010 - I am trying to create a native wildlife habitat for our home. We live in Marathon County, Wisconsin (north central Wisconsin). We live near woods, meadow, wetlands. Could you send me a list of nativ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies in Michigan
April 19, 2009 - I am wanting to raise Painted Lady butterflies and release them into my garden. I know that they like to eat Mallow plants, but I was wondering what kind of Mallow plant would be best for my garden?
view the full question and answer

Need plants beneficial or attractive to bees in Dripping Springs, TX
January 27, 2014 - Can you provide a specific list of plants beneficial or attractive to honey bees in the Texas Hill Country (we raise bees in Dripping Springs, TX.) Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Host plants to monarch butterflies in Starr County, TX
July 14, 2005 - I plant native larval and nectar plants that support the life cycle of the monarch butterfly here in the east; but, where can I find a list of native plants for my friends in the Tamaulipan Biotic P...
view the full question and answer

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