About the Journal
From Me to You
Calendar of Events
Things to Expect & Do
Ask A Gardener
Tomatoes in the
Creating A Butterfly
Stories to Delight
BCI Celebrates 20th
Designing Your Own
Herbs for the Bath
Center for Native &
January Citrus Clinic
C R E A T U R E C O M F O R T S
Creating a Butterfly Garden
by Debora Villa,
Master Gardener Intern
Everyone loves butterflies. Their movements and color add beauty to
our environment. Now that I have small children, the benefits of a butterfly
garden go well beyond beauty. It can also be a wonderful tool for helping
youngsters learn about ecology, native plants, and insect life cycles. Beyond
that, butterfly gardens can help return native plants to the area, and preserve
threatened species in danger of loosing their habitats.
Butterflies and moths are arthropods belonging to the insect order Lepidoptera. Their life cycle
consists of four phases: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and finally butterfly.
They serve as pollinators and are a
source of food for some animals. As such, their presence is an indicator of
the health of the environment.
Butterflies vary widely in color and size. There are 760 species in North
America, and over 250 species representing six families that are native to
Arizona. The six families are: Papilliondae (Swallowtails), Pieidae
(Whites and Sulfurs), Lycaenidae (Blues, Hairstreaks and Metalmarks),
Libytheidae (Snouts), Nymphalidae (Brushfoots), and Hesperiidae (Skippers).
Butterflies can travel for miles, and are capable of identifying plants from great
distances. Each type of butterfly has its favorite plant foods, and they
also have color preferences. The caterpillars seem to be especially fussy eaters.
A butterfly garden can be any size, but plant selection is an important factor. Many of the native and desert-adapted
plants available at local nurseries attract butterflies; but besides the plant's attractiveness to butterflies, you should
also consider factors such as water requirements and adaptation to sun and temperature extremes.
Butterflies are most often attracted to a plant's flowers. Mass plantings of
flowers usually do a better job of attracting butterflies than a single
plant. Look for plants with wide, shallow flowers, or those with clusters of
flowers that, together, provide good perching platforms. Color is an important
factor, with white considered the most inferior. Well-known butterfly
favorites include zinnia, marigold, daisy, thistle, and butterfly bush.
Flowers attract butterflies by providing nectar, but they may also be attracted
to plant saps, rotting fruit, and animal waste. To have a true butterfly garden,
you must also feed the larva . Plants that produce food for larvae attract
and keep adult butterflies in the garden, as well.
"Desert Butterfly Gardening", by the Arizona Native Plant Society and the
Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute,
provides an excellent list of plants that
attract butterflies. It includes colored
pictures. The Desert Botanical Garden
publishes a list of butterfly visitors that
includes information on larval foods.
PLANTS TO CONSIDER:
Fern Acacia (Acacia angustissima) not
only attracts butterflies, but also is larval
plant food for the Yellow Mexican
Butterfly Mist or Butterfly Blue(TM)
(Ageratum corymbs) has a blue flower
and tasty nectar. It attracts male
Queens. (An alkaloid in the flower is
ingested and used as an aphrodisiac to
Bee Brush (Aloysius gratissima) is
scrappy in appearance, but has a
remarkable fragrance. Gray Hairstreaks
and Queens are attracted to this plant.
Pineleaf Milkweed (Asclepias linaria) is
a major food source for caterpillars of
Queen and Monarch butterflies. They
eat the leaves and flowers of A. linaria,
as well as those of Desert Milkweed (A. subulata) and Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa).
Sweet Bush (Bebbia juncea) is an
extremely drought-tolerant native plant
that attracts all sizes of butterflies,
including Checkered Skippers.
Mallow (Malva) is also a larval food
plant for the Checkered Skipper, as is
Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), a native grass. Orange
Skippers eat other grasses, such as
Bamboo Muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa).
Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) attracts Swallowtails, Sulfurs
and some Skippers.
Pipevine (Aristolochia microphylla) is a
larval plant food for Swallowtails, one
of the largest butterflies.
Desert Hackberry (Celtis pallida) is a
native larval food plant that can attract
both the Snouts and Empress
Leilias. Empress Leilias feed
on sap and rotting fruit in
preference to flowers.
Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) is an excellent nectar bush.
Reakirt's Blues will often be observed swarming this bush in the fall.
Black Dalea (Dalea frutescens) attracts
Southern Dogface caterpillars.
Golden Dyssodia (Dyssodia pentachaeta), a native, provides food and
nectar for the Dainty Sulfur butterfly
Spreading Fleabane (Erigeron divergens), a member of the sunflower family, may bring Buckeyes to your yard.
You can also try other sunflower family
members, such as Cosmos and
Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia orthocarpa)
has a white, fragrant flower that attracts
butterflies, bees, wasps, and flies.
Butterflies most likely to be seen will be
Hairstreaks and Blues. Kidneywood
provides larval food for the Marine
Blue, which is tended by ants.
Lantana (Lantana camara) draws the
Giant Swallowtail and Fiery Skipper.
Swallowtail caterpillars eat cultivated
citrus, and Fiery Skippers eat Bermuda
grass. It is not necessary to plant citrus
to attract the Swallowtail. Trailing
Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) attracts
all types of butterflies, and is a favorite
of the Painted Lady.
Wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri) has a
long blooming period, and its nectar
attracts both bees and butterflies,
including the Funereal Duskywing, a
Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is a
groundcover. It has a tiny pale lilac flower that
attracts Blues, Hairstreaks
and Skippers. It is also
food for the Refh Crescent. Cultivation
of this plant may help re-establish the
Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)
leaves are eaten by Leda Hairstreaks,
and provide attractive shade for your
Desert Senna (Senna covesii) serves
as larval plant food for the Sleepy
Orange and the Cloudless. It is also
a native plant.
Verbena (Verbena gooddingii) is a native
with colorful blooms. It draws many
types of butterflies, American Lady
Lazaroff, David Wentworth.
Book Of Answers.
Werner, Floyd, P h.D., and Carl Olsen, M.S.
Insects of the Southwest.
Arizona Native Plant Society and the
Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute.
"Desert Butterfly Gardening."
The Urban Gardener.
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated January 25, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopaemail@example.com 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092