Favorite Nectar and Food Sources of Butterflies
The Butterfly Garden is home to a vast collection of plants that provide crucial resources for butterflies. Host plants are a site for adult butterflies to lay eggs on and provide a food source for the emerging caterpillars. Nectar plants provide a food source for adult butterflies and other pollinators. A dozen or so different species of butterflies can be found in this garden at any given time.
Butterflies you may see and their favorite plants:
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) & Milkweed (Asclepias)
This group of plants named for their milky sap are an important nectar source and a host plant for butterflies. Milkweed is the only plant material that monarch caterpillars can eat, making it crucial for the survival of the monarch species. The monarch butterfly is known for its annual migration from Canada to Mexico.
Atala Butterfly (Eumaeus atala) & Coontie (Zamia pumila)
Much like the relationship between the milkweed and the monarch butterfly, the atala butterfly relies on cycads for its caterpillars. As the only native cycad to North America, the coontie plant was the sole host plant for the atala. Over-harvested as a source of starch, the decline of the coontie or Florida arrowroot as it is also called, led to the belief that the atala butterfly was extinct until a small colony was discovered in 1979 near Miami. With the dedicated work of scientists and local citizens, the atala butterfly population has recovered tremendously.
Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia) & Passion Flower (Passiflora)
The zebra longwing was designated the state butterfly of Florida in 1996. Marked by its black and pale yellow stripes, the wings of this butterfly are long and narrow. The zebra longwing uses a variety of passion flower plants as its larval host. The adults are known for their long lifespan (several months) and roost in groups in the same location each night.
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) & American Senna (Senna hebecarpa)
Another of the common butterflies gliding from plant to plant, the cloudless sulphur is a smallish light yellow butterfly. The caterpillars can use various sennas and peas as host plants, such as American senna.
Plant Collection Highlights: