Not all Weeds are Weeds

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By looking around at my yard, you would think that every plant in it is a weed, but I learned something really important when preparing this post: some of my weeds are butterfly host plants.

As you know, I have been courting monarchs for a year with lots of yummy milkweed plants, but my yard is also home to a large selection of other butterflies like the zebra butterfly, the Gulf Fritillary butterfly, four species of swallowtails, the cloudless Sulphur, painted lady butterfly, and the American lady butterfly.

I discovered that one of the weeds that I had been removing was a cudweed, also known as a Pennsylvania Everlasting. It is not from Pennsylvania nor is it a native plant, but it is the host plant to the American lady butterfly, which explains why I have so many of them in the yard.  As I read up further on the American lady butterfly, I realized that I have seen the caterpillars on the porch.

I thought I would dig a little deeper into my butterflies and find out what plant they used as hosts. Here is what I found:

Zebra longwing butterfly – These pretty little butterflies are the Florida State butterfly and love my jatropha bush in the backyard, but they lay their eggs on the purple passionflower. While I don’t have any passionflower in my yard, I know where I can get a plant or two. It just seems like these butterflies are so prevalent that they don’t need my help to procreate.

Gulf Fritillary – The Gulf Fritillary also enjoy the passionflower and passion vine as a host, but they are attracted to nectar plants like lantana, zinnias, asters, verbena, butterfly bushes, and thistle.

Swallowtails – I have black swallowtails, and they use carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace as their host plants. I did plant some dill and parsley last year to give them a place to lay their eggs, but I have not seen a cat yet. The giant swallowtail likes wild lime and other citrus trees. The spicebush and pipevine swallowtail are both named for their host plants, and all of the swallowtails love nectar plants like pentas, zinnias, and lantana.

Cloudless Sulphur – This pretty yellow butterfly uses the Senna plant as its host. If they feed on the yellow flowers of a cassia plant, they will turn bright yellow. They enjoy coneflowers, too.

Painted Lady – The Painted Lady butterfly looks a lot like the American lady butterfly, but it has four eyes on each wing while the American lady has two. The American lady also has a white spot on their top wings in a sea of orange. The Painted Lady lay their eggs on thistles and mallow family plants. They munch on asters, as long as they are 3 or more feet tall.

Every year, a migration of white butterflies heads our way from South Florida, and this year, I will make sure that they have a lot of lantana and other nectar plants to enjoy. We do get them to stop over here, but I will do what I can to make it an even tastier stop this year.

Not all straggly-looking plants are weeds; some are a very important stopover for butterflies. 

Passionflower host plant.

Since butterflies are crucial to our world’s make up, it is never too late to teach children and adults about the butterflies in their world. Here are a couple of recommended books for the young at heart. 

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