There are thousands of species of butterflies all over the world, each play an important role in their respective ecosystems. Butterfly populations naturally fluctuate and are a reflection of various ecological factors like rainfall, weather, and habitat availability. All butterflies have plants that they depend on for survival, these are called host plants which differ from species to species.
The host plants of monarch butterfly, for example, are various flowering plants of the milkweed family. Adult female monarchs will only lay their eggs on or near milkweed plants. With time native milkweeds have become less common as wildlands are rapidly being developed, paved over, or replaced with non-native ornamental plants. As a result monarchs hace losts much of the habitat they need for survival and their numbers are rapidly declining. Luckily thousands of gardeners throughout North America (Candada, the United States, and Mexico) are spreading the word about growing native milkweeds and raising new generations of monarchs for release in the wild – it is truly inspiring.
Monarchs are of course not the only butterflies in need of help and habitat rehabilitation. Other butterfly species are equally important and all butterflies depend on host plants. Other species, like the painted lady butterflies have adapted to many different host plants, some of which are common garden weeds like nettles and thistles. These butterflies are also migratory and can be seen making their rounds in many continents on Earth.
Another interesting butterfly species is the Gulf Fritillary who’s host plant is the passionvine also known as passion flower and is the plant that make passion fruit (also known as May Pops). Both of these species are common where I currently live in Argentina as well as a South American monarch!
Over the years I have written blog posts about specific butterflies that are common in North & South America. These are the quick links to the various posts organized by each butterflies common name in English / in Spanish. These are at least the common names used in the Americas and may be different in other parts of the English and Spanish speaking world.
And I also wrote an article about Bumble Bees and many more posts bout gardening for pollinators and plants on my blog :
Great plants for pollinator gardens:
Adding host plants of specific butterflies species is very important and which plants to choose will depend on your local climate and the species common there. Here I will provide a few common flowers that grow well in many parts of the world and attract a wide array of butterflies, bees and sometimes even hummingbirds.
Lantana is an easy to grow flowering shrub much loved by butterflies and hummingbirds.
In our garden we often see polydamas swallowtails on the marigolds – these are red cottage marigolds which grow very easily planted directly or transplanted in most climates as a annual flower.
Calendula is another amazing flower that bees and butterflies love. It also has the added benefit of being a medicinal herb! These flowers are very easy to grow from seed which are widely available in many nurseries. Plant seeds in pots in spring or early fall and transplant them into the garden, or some place where they will receive sufficient water, a month after they have sprouted.
A painted lady butterfly and a calendula plant – all pictures on this page were taken by me in our garden or yard.
You can read more about these common butterflies and their preferred plants in my newest print newsletter: the Flora Libra zine volume 1 which is available for $6 in my etsy store.