Plants That Host Butterfly Larvae

— Written By
monarch caterpillar on milkweed

Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed plants exclusively. Plant milkweed in your garden to benefit Monarch butterflies!

Native plants are important to native insects. Butterfly larval host plants are plants on which butterfly females lay eggs. The subsequent larvae of the the butterfly then feeds on the host plant. This feeding does not harm the plants and often these plants are the only food the caterpillars will eat. Choose native plants for your landscape when you can to benefit butterflies!

Butterfly Caterpillar Host Plants
Pipevine swallowtail pipevines (Aristolochia spp.)
Zebra swallowtail pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
Black swallowtail parsley family – parsley, dill, fennel, carrot, Queen Anne’s lace, Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), rue family – common rue
Giant swallowtail northern prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum), common rue
Eastern tiger swallowtail tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), wild black cherry (Prunus serotina), ash (Fraxinus spp.)
Spicebush swallowtail spicebush (Lindera benzoin), sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Cabbage white (non-native) mustard family – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, garlic mustard, (invasive non-native), winter-cress
Clouded sulphur clovers
Orange sulphur alfalfa, clovers
American copper sheep sorrel, docks
Banded hairstreak oaks (Quercus spp.), hickories (Carya spp.), black walnut (Juglans nigra)
Gray hairstreak flowers and seeds of – tick-trefoils, bush-clovers, clovers, mallows, hibiscus
Henry’s elfin redbud (Cercis canadensis), American holly (Ilex opaca), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.)
Eastern tailed blue flowers and seeds of – clovers, bush-clovers, tick-trefoils, sweet clovers
Baltimore white turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
Spring azure/summer azure buds and flowers of – flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), wild black cherry (Prunus serotina), viburnums, blueberries, meadow-sweet (Spiraea spp.), New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), wing stem (Verbesina alternifolia)
Variegated fritillary violets and pansies
Great spangled fritillary violets
Meadow fritillary violets
Silvery checkerspot ox-eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.), wing stem (Verbesina alternifolia), coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
Pearl crescent asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) – excluding white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata)
Question mark hackberry trees (Celtis spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), nettles
Eastern comma nettles, hops, elms (Ulmus spp.)
Mourning cloak willows (Salix spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.), aspens (Populus spp.), birches (Betula spp.), hackberry tree (Celtis spp.)
American lady pussytoes (Antennaria spp.), pearly everlasting, fragrant cudweed
Painted lady thistles (some are invasive non-natives), mallows, hollyhocks, asters, legumes and many others
Red admiral nettles, false nettle
Common buckeye English plantain, common plantain, figworts, vervains, snapdragon, toadflax
Red-spotted purple cherries (Prunus spp.), willows (Salix spp.), aspens (Populus spp.), serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), birches (Betula spp.), hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), sweet crabapple (Malus coronaria)
Viceroy willows (Salix spp.), aspens (Populus spp.)
Hackberry & Tawny emperors hackberry trees (Celtis spp.)
Appalachian brown sedges (Carex spp.), bulrush
Little wood satyr bluegrasses, orchard grass
Common wood nymph purpletop grass (Tridens flavus), poverty grass, big bluestem, little bluestem
Monarch milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)
Silver-spotted skipper black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), tick-trefoils, hog-peanut and other legumes
Wild indigo duskywing (skipper) wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), blue false indigo (Baptisia australis), crown-vetch (invasive non-native)
Common checkered skipper mallows, sidas, velvet-leaf, hollyhock
Peck’s skipper rice cutters (Leersia oryzoides), bluegrasses
Little glassywing (skipper) purpletop grass (Tridens flavus)
Zabulon skipper purpletop grass (Tridens flavus), lovegrass

Chart prepared by York County Master Gardener℠ Volunteer Debra Carman, February 2017

Butterfly Larval Host Plant List

Written By

Steve Pettis, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionSteve Pettis, Jr.Extension Agent, Agriculture - Consumer and Commercial Horticulture Call Steve Email Steve N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center
Posted on May 3, 2021
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