Butterfly plants for the native garden

Establishing a butterfly garden

Prepared by Joanne van der Laan, 2000, for Yerba Buena Nursery

Observation

The first step in establishing a butterfly garden involves the simple act of observation. Spend a few sunny afternoons at a local park, abandoned field and around your neighborhood. Take notes on any butterflies you see. These can be used to identify butterflies. There are many wonderful field guides available to help with identification. These are the butterflies most likely to be attracted to your garden. You may also want to investigate what butterflies might migrate through your area so that you can provide them with a resting spot as well. Be sure to note the habitat that you observed each type of butterfly in (marsh, meadow, chaparral, etc.)

Site

The next step is to choose an appropriate site in your garden. Butterflies require a sunny exposure that is protected from high winds. If your site is too shady, consider opening it up some, or choose a different site. Large shrubs can effectively block high winds as well as providing nectar for adult butterflies and food for their larvae. You may still want to consider using shrubs to provide shelter even if you have walls or fences that block the wind.

Habitat

Butterflies vary in their lifestyles and timing of their lifecycles. Remember in step one when you noted the habitats you observed the butterflies in? Now is the time to use that information. If you want to attract a particular butterfly to your garden, be sure to create a similar habitat. The more habitat types you provide, the larger the number, variety and length of stay you will encounter.

Plant selection

The next step is plant selection. Butterflies typically need more than one plant type to complete their lifecycles. Many butterflies require one or just a few specific host plants to feed their larvae. The larva is the caterpillar stage of the butterfly life-cycle. You need to be sure to provide whatever plant is the food source for the larvae of the butterflies you want to attract. As adults, butterflies require good sources of nectar. Many plants are suitable nectar sources for a large variety of butterflies, and most butterflies can utilize a wide variety of flowers.

Other considerations

There a few more pieces of the puzzle to be considered. Butterflies being cold-blooded need the sunlight to warm their muscles for flight. This is one reason you see them most frequently when and where it is warm and sunny. Try if possible to provide them with a resting spot in full sun where they can gather the warmth and energy to fly. South facing walls and large field stones are good choices. Butterflies also need a source of drinking water such as shallow mud or sand puddles. To help butterflies acquire certain minerals, you can add manure, table salt, and fruit pieces to the water. Last, yet possibly most important, is to refrain from using any pesticides/insecticides near your garden. Butterflies are extremely sensitive to these chemicals in all stages of their lives.

References

Butterflies and their Larval Food Plants, Peter J. Bryant

http://manba.bio.uci.edu/Bbryant/biodiv/bflyplnt.htm

Gunnarson, Linda, Haselsteiner, Francis. LaFlaur, Markk. Butterfly Gardening. Creating Summer Magic in Your Garden. Xerces Society, 1989

Landscaping for Bay Area Butterflies, Prepared by Leslie Saul, 1992

Las Pilitas Butterfly List, http://laspilitas.com/butterfly.htm

Stewart, Bob. Common Butterflies of California. West Coast Lady Press, 1998

Notes on Larval Food Plants of some Bay Area Butterflies, Prepared by Jeff Caldwell

Plant list

The following is a list of California native plants grown by Yerba Buena Nursery which are recommended to attract butterflies to your garden. Some plants provide a food source for butterfly larvae; other plants are used for nectar by adult butterflies. Some plants appeal to both larvae and adult butterflies.

We are building lists of which species of local butterflies are attracted to which plants, but are only just beginning this process.

Acer macrophyllum
Big Leaf Maple

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Achillea millefolium
White Yarrow

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Achillea millefolium
Pink & White Yarrow

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Achillea millefolium 'Calistoga'
Grey-Leaved Yarrow

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Achillea millefolium 'King Range'
White Yarrow

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Achillea millefolium 'Pink Island Form'
Yarrow

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Achillea millefolium 'Sonoma Coast'
Sonoma White Yarrow

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Adenostoma fasciculatum
Chamise

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Aesculus californica
California Buckeye

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Allium unifolium
Meadow Onion

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Alnus rhombifolia
White Alder

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Arabis blepharophylla
Coast Rock Cress

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Arbutus menziesii
Madrone

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Arctostaphylos densiflora
Vine Hill Manzanita

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Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Harmony'
Vine Hill Manzanita

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Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn'
Vine Hill Manzanita

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Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Sentinel'
Vine Hill Manzanita

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Arctostaphylos purissima 'Vandenberg'
Manzanita

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Aristolochia californica
California Dutchmans Pipe

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Armeria maritima
Sea Thrift or Sea Pink

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Artemisia arbuscula
Little Sagebrush

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Artemisia californica 'Canyon Grey'
California Sagebrush

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Asclepias cordifolia
Purple Milkweed

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Asclepias eriocarpa
Indian Milkweed

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Asclepias fascicularis
Butterfly Weed

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Asclepias speciosa
Showy Milkweed

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Aster chilensis
Chilean Aster

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Baccharis pilularis 'Pigeon Pt.'
Dwarf Coyote Bush

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Baccharis pilularis consanguinea var.
Coyote Bush

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Baccharis pilularis pilularis var. 'Twin Peaks II'
Coyote Bush

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Calycanthus occidentalis
Spice Bush

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Carpenteria californica 'Elizabeth'
Bush Anemone

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Ceanothus 'Blue Mound'
'Blue Mound' Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Blue Ray'
California Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Centennial'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Concha'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Dark Star'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Ebbet's Field'
Dwarf Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Far Horizons'
'Far Horizons' Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Gerda Isenberg'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Julia Phelps'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Sierra Blue'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus 'Tilden Park'
California Ceanothus

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Ceanothus 'Wheeler Canyon'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus cuneatus
Buckbrush

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Ceanothus cuneatus
Prostrate Buck Brush

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Ceanothus cuneatus 'Excellent Form'
Buckbrush

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Ceanothus cuneatus rigidus var. 'Snowball'
Wild Lilac

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Ceanothus gloriosus 'Anchor Bay'
Point Reyes Ceanothus

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Ceanothus gloriosus 'Heart's Desire'
Glory Mat

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