Photo: TexasEagle (flickr)
As well as providing nectar-rich plants for mature butterflies to feast on, this spring we must try harder to include spring and summer food for caterpillars in our gardens.
Caterpillars need some plants that we gardeners may think of as weeds to get the sustenance necessary for them to evolve into butterflies. Different species of caterpillars have specific plants or plant families they need for their food.
For example, Black Swallow larvae enjoy fennel, dill, parsley, carrot or rue as host plants, and the Giant Swallowtail also likes rue. Viceroy, Red Spotted Purple, and Mourning Cloak larvae prefer trees such as salix (willow), and prunus (flowering cherry) is preferred by Red Spotted Purples and Tiger Swallowtails. Hackberry trees are hosts to Hackberry, Question Mark and Snout.
Monarchs love milkweed (Asclepias tuberose) to lay their eggs on. Actually, the vining bindweed that gardeners deplore is a form of milkweed that monarchs adore. Annual zinnias, butterfly bushes, verbena (bonariensis) and coneflowers, as well as veronica (altissima), are magnets for adult butterflies and are usually not attractive to deer.