[Butterfly Header - North American Butterfly Association]

BUTTERFLY GARDENING - BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA

by Barbara Deutsch and Sally Levinson


TOP BUTTERFLY NECTAR FLOWERS

A number in front of a flower name indicates a particularly recommended plant (1 = most recommended). Numbers in "BLOOM SEASON" correspond to the month (4 = April, 5 = May, etc.). Abbreviations: A=alien species, N = native species.


FLOWER HEIGHT COLOR BLOOM
SEASON
ATTRACTED
BUTTERFLIES
COMMENTS
N/A
Bur marigolds
   Bidens
2-5'
white,pink
yellow
1-12
Gulf Fritillary
Vanessids
Common Buckeye
Skippers
A
Heliotrope
   Heliotropium arborescens
1'
white, pale purple
1-12
many
long-lived where
no hard freezes
N Yerba santa
   Eriodictyon
3-5'
white, lavendar
2-4
many available from Las Pilitas nursery
N
Phacelia
   Phacelia californica
1-2'
lavendar
3-5
many
A
Butterfly bush
   Buddleia davidii
8'
purple, magenta,
white
3-10
many
season of bloom
depends on pruning
A
Statice
   Statice
2'
purple
3-10
many
A 1 Dandelion
   Taraxacum officinale
1'
yellow
3-11
Gossamer Wings (Lycaenids)
Vanessids
Skippers
a common lawn weed
A 1 Jupiter's beard
   Centranthus ruber
2'
pink
crimson
3-11
Pipevine Swallowtail
Anise Swallowtail
California Tortoiseshell
Vanessids
Common Buckeye
Monarch
Comm. Checkered-Skipper
easy to grow;
white-flowered variety
unattractive to butterflies
A
Cape Plumbago
   Plumbago capensis
12' (vine)
light blue
3-12
Swallowtails
Vanessids
Monarch
Skippers
requires support
N 1 California buckeye
   Aesculus californica
to 40'
pink-white
4-6
many (best native nectar
plant)
prune to desired height
A
Sage
   Salvia clevelandii and others
1-3'
light purple
4-10
Pipevine Swallowtail
Anise Swallowtail
N
Spikeweeds (tarweeds)
   Hemizonia
1-4'
yellow
4-11
many
N
Whitethorn
   Ceanothus incanus
1-4'
white
3-7

no summer water needed
A
Butterfly bush
   Buddleia globosa
5-6'
gold
4-6
California Sister
Monarch

N
Toyon
   Heteromeles californica
4-8'
white
5-7
many
do not prune in spring
N/A 1 Thistles
   Cirsiumsp.
2-4'
pink, purple
6-9
many, especially fall
Monarchs

A 1 Lantanas
   Lantana camara, hirta, montevidensis
3'
yellow, orange,
magenta, white,
pink
6-9
Pipevine, Anise, Western Tiger Swallowtails
Gray Hairstreak
Gulf Fritillary
Checkerspots
Vanessids
Monarch
Skippers
easy to grow;
white flowers
attract Checkerspots
and Common Buckeye
A
Verbena
   Verbena
1-4'
purple
6-10
Pipevine, Anise, Western Tiger Swallowtails
Monarch
'Homestead Purple' is
a good cultivar
A
Glossy abelia
   Abeliax grandiflora
6-8'
white
6-11
Vanessids
(Ladies and Red Admiral)
Monarch
a shrub
A
Blue leadwort
   Cerastostigma griffithii
2-3'
bright blue
7-11
Gulf Fritillary
Ladies
Skippers

A
Escallonia
   Escallonia montevidensis
3-10'
white, pink
7-11
Swallowtails
Vanessids (Ladies and
Red Admiral)
Monarch
easy to establish;
prune for size
or to induce bloom
A
Mexican sunflower
   Tithonia rotundifolia
6-8'
orange
7-11
Pipevine & Western Tiger Swallowtails
Monarch

N
Anchor plant
   Colletia cruciata
to 6'
white
8-10
Vanessids
Common Buckeye
Monarch
prickly, cactus-like
plant
A/N
Asters
   Aster
6"
lavendar
8-10
Gossamer Wings
Crescents
Vanessids
Common Buckeye
Monarch
Skippers






NECTAR FLOWERS THAT DON'T WORK IN THIS REGION

Abbreviations: A = alien species, N = native species.


FLOWER COMMENTS
A Daylilies(Hemerocallis) Common in the area but butterflies don't visit them.





TOP CATERPILLAR FOOD PLANTS

A number in front of a plant name indicates a particularly recommended plant (1 = most recommended). Abbreviations: A=alien species, N = native species.



NAME HEIGHT BUTTERFLY CATERPILLARS COMMENTS
A/N
Asters
   Aster
1-4'
Field Crescent
naturalize on slope or in meadow
N
Buckwheats
   Eriogonum latifolium, nudum, parvifolium
1-2'
Gray Hairstreak, Acmon Blue (E. fascicularis not used)
N
California buckeye
   Aesculus californica
8-15'
'Echo' Spring Azure
can be pruned in late summer
N
California bee plant
   Scrophularia californica
2-3'
Variable (Chalcedon) Checkerspot
likes moisture
N
California pipevine
   Aristolochia californica
vine
Pipevine Swallowtail (A. elegans toxic to caterpillars)
N
California sycamore
   Platanus racemosa
40-90'
Western Tiger Swallowtail grows along streams
N
Coffeeberry
   Rhamnus californica
3-10'
'Echo' Spring Azure
'Eve Case' stays small, compact
N Cottonwoods, poplars
   Populus
to 40-70'
Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Lorquin's Admiral
N 1 Cudweeds
   Gnaphalium
1-2'
American Lady does well as edging or crevice plant
A 1 Fennel
   Foeniculum vulgare
8'
Anise Swallowtail Plant should be kept cut back.
N
Globemallows
   Sphaeralcea
2-4'
Gray Hairstreak, Painted Lady
West Coast Lady, Common Checkered-Skipper
weedy mallows are also used
A 1 Hollyhock
   Althaea rosea
8'
Painted Lady, West Coast Lady
Common Checkered-Skipper
Single or double-it doesn't matter.
A
Mexican milkweed
   Asclepias curassavica
2-3'
Monarch
N 2 Narrow-leaved milkweed
   Asclepias fascicularis
2-4'
Monarch
N 1 Nasturtium
   Tropaelum majus
1'
Cabbage White easy; self seeds
A/N
Nettles
   Urtica
1/2-5'
Red Admiral
Anglewings

A/N 1 Passion vine
   Passiflora caerulea (and others)
to 20'
Gulf Fritillary
must be in full sun to be used
A 1 Pellitory
   Parietaria judaica
2'
Red Admiral
needs water when dry to be used
A/N
Penstemon
   Penstemon
1-4'
Checkerspots (inland species prefer penstemon)
Common Buckeye

N/A 1 Plantains
   Plantago hirtella, lanceolata
1'
Common Buckeye common weed
N
Sidalceas
   Sidalcea
1-3'
Painted Lady, West Coast Lady, Common Checkered-Skipper; perhaps Gray Hairstreak
A
Snapdragons
   Antirrhinum majus
1'
Common Buckeye
A/N
Sticky monkeyflower
   Mimulus aurantiacus
1-4'
Checkerspots (combine with bee plant)
Common Buckeye (combine with plantain)

N/A
Thistles
   Cirsium
2-5'
Mylitta Crescent, Painted Lady plant in stages to stagger new growth
N
Toyon
   Heteromeles californica
4-8'
'Echo' Spring Azure prune to suit after spring adult flight
N
Willows
   Salix
to 15-50'
Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak (prefers S. hindsii), Lorquin's Admiral





COMMON BUTTERFLIES FOR YOUR GARDEN & YARD

A number in front of a butterfly indicates a particularly likely species (1 = most expected to be observed). Numbers in "FLIGHT PERIOD" and "CATERPILLAR SEASON" correspond to the month (4 = April, 5 = May, etc.), with < meaning earlier in the month, m the middle of the month, and > late in the month.



NAME
FLIGHT
PERIOD
CATERPILLAR
SEASON
CATERPILLAR
FOOD PLANTS

COMMENTS
2 Anise Swallowtail
   Papilio zelicaon
2-11
2-11
fennel, parsley
1 Western Tiger Swallowtail
   Papilio rutulus
3-11
4-11
cherry, poplar, sycamore, willow 2nd brood much larger than 1st
1 Cabbage White
   Pieris rapae
1-12
1-12
mustard (cabbage) family; nasturtium
2 Gray Hairstreak
   Strymon melinus
3-10
3-10
mallows, buckwheats, many others

'Echo' Spring Azure
   Celastrina ladon (echo)
2-7
2-7
flowers of many spring-flowering shrubs & trees
Acmon Blue
   Plebejus acmon
2-10
2-10
buckwheats (Eriogonum)
lotus

Gulf Fritillary
   Agraulis vanillae
3-11
3-11
passion vines found near this plant when in sun

Mourning Cloak
   Nymphalis antiopa
2-11
3-7
hackberries, willows
2 Painted Lady
   Vanessa cardui
2-11
2-11
Hollyhock, cheeseweed, thistles, others large fluctuations in abundance
1 West Coast Lady
   Vanessa annabella
3-10
6-8
cheeseweed and other mallows
1 Red Admiral
   Vanessa atalanta
1-12
1-12
pellitory, nettles

Monarch
   Danaus plexippus
12-2 (overwintering)
3-6 & 9-11 (migrant)

milkweeds summers in Mount Diablo area
2 Common Checkered-Skipper
   Pyrgus communis
3-11
3-11
cheeseweed, sidalceas, globemallows, mallows
1 Fiery Skipper
   Hylephila phyleus
3-11

grasses and sedges, especially Bermuda grass, Bromus carinatus, Sporobolus

Umber Skipper
   Poanes melane
3-11

grasses and sedges





LOCAL & UNUSUAL BUTTERFLIES FOR YOUR GARDEN & YARD

Numbers in "FLIGHT PERIOD" and "CATERPILLAR SEASON" correspond to the month (4 = April, 5 = May, etc.), with < meaning earlier in the month, m the middle of the month, and > late in the month.



NAME
FLIGHT
PERIOD
CATERPILLAR
SEASON
CATERPILLAR
FOOD PLANTS
COMMENTS

Pipevine Swallowtail
   Battus philenor
3-7
4-7
pipevines

Orange Sulphur
   Colias eurytheme
2-11
2-11
alfalfa, clovers, and related legumes in Bay Area in late summer

Field Crescent
   Phyciodes campestris
3-10
3-10
asters butterfly stays close to asters

Mylitta Crescent
   Phyciodes mylitta
3-10
3-10
thistles

Checkerspots
   Euphydryas
3-6
3-4
coastal: bee plant, sticky monkeyflower
inland: penstemons

California Tortoiseshell
   Nymphalis californica
2-11
4-8
Ceanothus large fluctuations in abundance

Common Buckeye
   Junonia coenia
1-12
1-12
Plantain, monkeyflower, snapdragon common in some years, scarce others

Lorquin's Admiral
   Limenitis lorquini
4-10
4-10
cottonwoods, poplars, willows





GENERAL COMMENTS ABOUT GARDENING IN THIS REGION

USDA ZONE: not applicable; very little frost, very little heat.

   The soil around Berkeley is clay; add lots of compost in this particular area, even to grow weeds (or grow in shallow raised beds on top of clay). Elsewhere compost should only be used where it does not destroy the integrity of mineral surfaces that many native soils have. The weather is mild year-round and doesn't correspond to USDA zones. Butterflies and caterpillars can be found almost year-round, so plan for nectar over almost all the year and don't cut back caterpillar food plants all at once. Transfer any larvae from pruned plants to fresh growing foliage. Many caterpillar food plants can be grown without watering (although watered plants that are fresh and tender are more attractive to butterflies) since they are weeds, or can become weedy. These weeds (aliens) are common in the region and are used frequently by the butterflies. For example, pellitory is not commercially available but will transplant readily. Pellitory should not be planted in Contra Costa County or near natural areas. Plantain is another favored weed that does not require the moist conditions necessary for the native Plantago hirtella. Butterfly plants consist of every type of plant you might grow in your garden: annuals, perennials, bushes, trees, vegetables, shade plants, weeds, lawn grass, and lawn weeds. Plan your landscape as a whole, figuring out where you want each of these types of plants around your home, and then incorporate butterfly plants into the landscape plan. It's also easy to add butterfly plants into an existing garden this way. Try to work with other gardeners to maximize butterfly habitat in your neighborhood. Nectar plants need to be in sunny places to be useful to butterflies. Water is very important in this region and should be provided in as naturalistic a way as possible (e.g., an imitation of a seep on a rocky slope; a mud-bank on a flat area). Keep notes and share what you learn!

Copyright © 1996 by the North American Butterfly Association, Inc. All rights reserved.


24 Feb 1999 / Main Page