En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Host plants for Painted Lady Butterflies (Vanessa cardui)

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

Species of hackberry best for wildlife from Georgetown, TX
February 21, 2014 - Which species of Hackberry tree is the best for wildlife in Georgetown, TX (just north of Austin)? Your Plant Database says Celtis occidentals is "among the BEST food and shelter plants for wildlife,...
view the full question and answer

Xeriscape demonstration garden
October 30, 2007 - I am working with the city of Schertz to rejuvenate a xeriscape demonstration garden. We want to plant a hummingbird/butterfly garden using native plants. The current bed is currently overrun with ber...
view the full question and answer

Larval host plants for Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies
October 31, 2009 - I am looking for a list of larval host plants for Painted Lady butterflies. Could you provide such a list?
view the full question and answer

Perennial native plant to attract butterflies/hummingbirds
January 24, 2013 - Need 3-6 foot perennial native plant to attract butterflies/hummingbirds in Paris Texas...full sun, with sprinkler system
view the full question and answer

Establishing wildflowers on a slope in Virginia
August 18, 2012 - From Roanoke Virginia. I have a steep bank rising from one side of my driveway to woods above. Different areas vary from full sun, to half day shade. It is possible to carefully walk/stand on it, we a...
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