Contact Us Host an Event 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
44 ratings

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)
 

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Butterfly plants for Washington DC area
June 28, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am a teacher working with very young students to establish a wildlife garden. We received a donated butterfly bush of a smallish cultivar, but wondering if there is a native...
view the full question and answer

Information on Betonyleaf thoroughwort
September 04, 2008 - I purchased Conoclinium betonicifolium (Betonyleaf thoroughwort) at the spring 2008 LBJ WC plant sale. I've not been able to find much information on the plant in the typical places, including the...
view the full question and answer

Listing of plants matched to specific pollinators
July 01, 2014 - Could you refer me to a listing of plants matched to specific pollinators? I have completed the conversion of a local nature center garden to a pollinator garden with all natives. We hope to place ed...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a school butterfly garden
February 11, 2008 - My son's school is having a beautification work day and one of the projects is a butterfly garden. Parents are being asked to donate plants, and we would like to suggest appropriate plants for this ...
view the full question and answer

Information for constructing a butterfly observation building
December 19, 2008 - I am looking for information on the construction of an indoor butterfly observation building and am having no luck. Thought I would take a chance and ask you.
view the full question and answer

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