Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - October 03, 2013

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Pests
Title: Native nightshade that is a host to hornworm-hawk's eye moth
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there a native nightshade that serves as a host to tomato hornworm/hawks eye moth? I like the moth and as a gardener do not like the hornworm. I would like to have a patch of not terribly toxic nightshades to which I could relocate the hornworms.

ANSWER:

There are other Solanaceae that the hornworm will feed on—e.g., pepper, eggplant and potato.  However, you probably aren't going to be happy about these plants being eaten either. There are native plants that you can encourage to grow near your garden that the caterpillars can be transferred to.  They will feed on Solanum elaeagnifolium (Silverleaf nightshade) and Solanum dimidiatum (Western horsenettle), common native plants that grow in Hays County.  They are considered toxic, however.  See the information from Texas A&M AgriLife's Plants of Texas Rangelands about silverleaf nightshade.  They will also feed on Datura wrightii (Sacred thorn-apple) but it is considered highly toxic.

You do realize that if you transfer the caterpillars to other plants to feed and mature, the resulting moths will lay eggs on your tomatoes again next year and you will have still more caterpillars to deal with.

Here is information from SF Gate about the hornworm and controlling it.  

 

From the Image Gallery


Silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium

Western horsenettle
Solanum dimidiatum

Jimsonweed
Datura wrightii

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Non-toxic plants for dog yard from Freeport PA
June 24, 2012 - I'm looking for wildlife-friendly native plants that aren't toxic to dogs. I have a place for some small shrubs and/or flowers. And a climbing vine that I could train on a trellis would work espec...
view the full question and answer

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

Identification of plant with small lilac flowers in Laredo
May 14, 2013 - Need help identifying the following: small lilac flowers in a cluster with seed pods, unpleasant scent which can be up to 3 feet tall ..wild flower or weed? am interested if it attracts hummingbirds...
view the full question and answer

Native plants to replace non-native Pentas plant in butterfly garden
March 25, 2010 - Can you suggest a Native alternative to Pentas? a freeze killed mine and if a native plant can fill that nectar/color void in my garden I'd appreciate it. thanks for all that y'all do.
view the full question and answer

Butterfly Plants for D.C. Garden
July 16, 2015 - I have one half of the side of the house face NE and the other half faces NW. The front of the house faces east. The back of the house faces west which is woody with native trees of Rock Creek Park of...
view the full question and answer

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