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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - April 28, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plants for attracting butterflies in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


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 butterflies use as hosts, but I don't recognize their names and don't know where I would find these plants in the wild. There are many butterflies that all look the same fluttering around the leaves of one of our front-yard trees. We think the tree is a Ligustrum. But we don't know where these butterflies are laying their eggs. Can anyone help? Here is the relevant text from the article: "Host plants where butterflies can feed and lay their eggs also are crucial to a successful backyard butterfly garden. Having a diverse collection of such plants is also important because certain plants are hosts to certain types of butterflies. Most notable is the monarch, whose caterpillars feed on milkweeds. Other larval plant-butterfly pairings include but are not limited to passion vine (Passiflora spp.): Gulf fritillary; flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii): Janais Patch; oak (Quercus spp.): hairstreaks; nettles (Urtica spp.): red admiral; senna and partridge pea: cloudless sulphur; sunflower (Helianthus spp.): bordered patch; and California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum): Acmon blue. Some host plants also are good nectar plants, which makes them doubly useful." Thank you.


Our first suggestion is that you go to the Master List of of native species in the Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since they are growing in our gardens and the Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow natively, these plants should all be available in gardens or in the wild in the Austin area.

For instance, the first plant on this list is Acalypha radians (Cardinal's feather). Follow the plant link to each plant for a description of that plant and pictures. Some of the plant webpages will list the butterflies that visit that particular plant and pictures; for instance, Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush) has pictures of the moths that visit that plant. Beneath each picture is a link to BAMONA (Butterflies and Moths of North America) which will give you more information about that particular moth or butterfly. You can also follow the BAMONA link to a listing of butterflies and moths with their preferred plants and area where they grow.

Your son and his classmates will probably have more luck finding the larvae, or caterpillars, that have hatched from the eggs than the eggs themselves.


More Herbs/Forbs Questions

How do I plant seeds harvested from my flower bed?
February 28, 2012 - In early Spring of 2011 I planted a new raised bed 75'x4' in size, with wildflower seeds obtained from a commercial nursery in Corpus Christi. I was taken back by their cost relative to the volume o...
view the full question and answer

Project on natives in Connecticut from Chino CA
April 13, 2010 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, My 10 yr. old daughter is doing a project on Ct., and would like to know what the most common plants, trees and flowers are found in this state. A few of each would be a great ...
view the full question and answer

Need to identify hemp-like plant in Bastrop, TX.
June 09, 2014 - What is the large stalky, hemp-like plant that populates our creek bottoms and ditches here in Central Texas? It has large 5-6 in. lobed leaves, and a fibrous central stalk that gets up to 7 ft tall. ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants to preserve soil on river bank
May 28, 2006 - I live in eastern Massachusetts. We have a small stream in our backyard and a woodland area on the other side. Japanese Knotweed is pretty well established on the opposite bank of the stream from our ...
view the full question and answer

Sun tolerant, rabbit-resistant plants in Plano, TX
November 07, 2008 - I live in Plano, Texas and am trying to identify sun tolerant plants for my landscape that are also rabbit resistant. The rabbits have taken over and destroy pansies, marigolds, etc. I am looking fo...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center