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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native host plants for Painted Lady Butterfly

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Thursday - June 01, 2006

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Native host plants for Painted Lady Butterfly
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 spring the 1st grade raises painted lady butterflies from eggs, and then release them outside. I maintain the garden (I am actually the art teacher!) and would like to incorporate the host plants for these butterflies in the garden so that the children can see them in their natural habitat. Anything I have read is very vague - mallow (but what varieties?), thistle (again, what type of thistle), and a few other non-specific plants. Any suggestions would be gratefully welcomed! Thank you very much and I look forward to your response.

ANSWER:

There appear to be many larval hosts for American Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) according to several sources (1. Ajilvsgi, Geyata. 1990. "Butterfly Garding for the South" Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing. 2. Neck, Raymond. 1996. A Field Guide to Butterflies of Texas. Houston: Gulf Publishing. 3. Damude, Noreen. 1999. Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife. Austin: Texas Parks & Wildlife.) Here are a few specific ones mentioned that are native to the Houston area. These are all in the Family Asteraceae (Aster Family) but there is also mention of plants in the Family Malvaceae (Mallow Family):

Sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium)
Parlin's pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii)
Mugwort wormwood (Artemisia ludoviciana)
Missouri ironweed ( Vernonia missurica) and Texas ironweed (Vernonia texana)
Rabbit tobacco (Evax prolifera)
Yarrow or Milfoil (Achillea millefolium)
Yellow thistle (Cirsium horridulum) and Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum)

The adults feed almost exclusively on flower nectar. Here are some species native to the Houston area that the adults feed on:

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) Family Apocynaceae (Dogbane Family)
Giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) Family Asteraceae (Aster Family)
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
Deer pea vetch (Vicia ludoviciana) Family Fabaceae (Pea Family)
 

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