BUTTERFLIES AND THEIR LARVAL FOODPLANTS

Photographed and compiled by Peter J. Bryant (pjbryant@uci.edu) Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92717

Butterflies can be attracted to your garden by providing suitable flowers from which they can obtain nectar. Most butterflies can utilize a wide variety of flowers, including those of many cultivated varieties, as nectar sources. However, a more critical need is for the plants that provide food for the larval (caterpillar) stages, and most species will accept only one or a few species of plants at this stage. If a butterfly is found near your area, you can probably attract it and increase its population by planting the correct foodplants for the caterpillars. Although the caterpillars will feed on the leaves of these plants, the damage is usually minor and only temporary. Caterpillars of some species feed on plants that are usually considered weeds, and you can benefit populations of these species by not removing all of the weeds.

The following table lists the larval foodplants for most of the butterfly species and a few of the more interesting moths found in Orange County. Many of the listed plants are available from Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano or Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita. A more extensive discussion of the biology of our local butterflies can be found in Getting into Butterflies by Larry Orsak. More information about butterfly gardening at: Glorious Butterfly

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COMMON NAME
GENUS/SPECIES 
IMAGE # OF BROODS AND FLIGHT PERIOD FOODPLANT
COMMON NAME
FOODPLANT
GENUS/SPECIES
Pipevine Swallowtail,
Battus philenor
Mar.-Sep. Pipevine Aristolochia sp.
Pale swallowtail,
Papilio eurymedon
Feb.-Jun.    
Redberry Rhamnus crocea
Calif. coffeeberry  Rhamnus californica
California lilac Ceanothus sp.
Holly-leafed cherry  Prunus ilicifolia
Tiger swallowtail,
Papilio rutulus
Jan.-Sep. California sycamore Platanus racemosa 
Willow Salix sp.
Anise swallowtail,
Papilio zelicaon
Feb.-Oct. Non-native:
Wild anise
Foeniculum vulgare 
Natives:   
Southern Tauschia Tauschia arguta
Woolly-fruited Lomatium Lomatium dasycarpum
Common Lomatium Lomatium utriculatum
Pacific Oenanthe Oenanthe sarmentosa
Giant swallowtail,
Papilio cresphontes
Jun.
Aug.- Sep.
Various citrus species, Rue.   
Sara orange-tip,
Anthocharis sara
Jan.-Jun. Rock cress Cruciferae, esp. Arabis spp. In Orange County, A. sparsifolia var. californica and A. glabra are probably used. Brassica spp., and Barbarea orthoceras may also be utilized.
California dogface,
Zerene eurydice
Jan.-Aug.
Oct.
False indigo Amorpha californica 
Orange Sulphur butterfly,
Colias eurytheme
Feb.-Oct. Alfalfa Medicago sativa
Nicippe yellow,
Eurema nicippe
Jul.-Nov. Senna Cassia tomentosa
Cloudless sulphur,
Phoebis sennae
Jun.-Nov. Senna Cassia tomentosa
Harford's sulphur,
Colias alexandra harfordii
Apr.-Jun. Locoweed Astragalus douglasii
Dainty dwarf sulfur,
Nathalis iole
Apr.-Jul.
Oct.-Nov.
Beggar-ticks Bidens pilosa 
Common white,
Pieris protodice
Mar.-Oct. Mustard Brassica
Cabbage white,
Pieris rapae
Jan.-Dec. Mustard Brassica
Striated queen,
Danaus gilippus
Apr.-Nov. Milkweed Sarcostemma hirtellum 
Milkweed  Sarcostemma cynanchoides
Milkweed  Asclepias erosa
Monarch,
Danaus plexippus
Jan.-Mar.
Sep.-Nov.
Milkweed Asclepias spp.
Viceroy,
Basilarchia archippus
 Apr.-Oct. Willow Salix sp.
Cottonwood Populus sp.
Sylvan wood nymph,
Cercyonis sthenele silvestris
Jun.-Aug. Grasses  
California Ringlet,
Coenonympha tullia california
3
Mar.-Aug.
Grasses  
California sister,
Adelpha bredowii
2
Apr-Jun.
Aug.-Sep.

Coast Live Oak

Canyon Oak

Quercus agrifolia

Quercus chrysolepis

Gabb's checkerspot,
Chlosyne gabbii
Mar.-Jun.   Corethrogyne filaginifolia 
  Haplopappus squarrosus
  Heterotheca grandiflora
Chalcedon checkerspot,
Euphydryas chalcedona
Mar.-Jun. Figwort Scrophularia californica 
Monkey flower Mimulus aurantiacus
  Penstemon antirrhinoides
Wright's checkerspot,
Chlosyne leanira 
    Indian paintbrush Castilleja spp. 
Quino checkerspot,
Euphydryas editha
Mar.-Apr. Plantain Plantago erecta 
West coast lady,
Vanessa anabella
Apr.-Dec. Cheeseweed Malva parviflora 
Nettle Urtica holosericea
Painted lady,
Vanessa cardui 
Jan.-Oct. Cheeseweed Malva parviflora 
Lupin  Lupinus albus
Thistle  Cirsium spp.
Dwarf nettle  Urtica urens
Fiddleneck  Amsinckia spp.
Virginia lady,
Vanessa virginiensis
Mar.-Oct. Cudweed Gnaphalium spp.
Pussytoes Antennaria spp.
Sagebrush Artemisia spp.
Pearly Everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea
Lorquin's admiral,
Limenitis lorquini
2
Apr.-Jun.
Aug.-Oct.
Willow Salix spp.
Mourning cloak,
Nymphalis antiopa
Jan.-Dec.
Overwinters as adult
Willow Salix spp.
Chinese elm  Ulmus sp.
Satyr,
Polygonia satyrus
Feb.-Apr.
Jun.-Aug.
Hibernates as adult.
Nettle Urtica holosericea
California Tortoiseshell,
Nymphalis californica
2
Apr.-Jun.
Jul.-Aug.
California lilac Ceanothus spp. 
Buckeye,
Precis coenia
Multiple
Feb.-Nov.
Plantain Plantago erecta
Plantain Plantago lanceolata
Monkey flower  Mimulus spp.
Snapdragon  Antirrhinum sp.
Comstock's fritillary,
Speyeria callipe comstocki
May-Jul. Violets Viola pedunculata
Viola quercetorum
Viola purpurea
Red admiral,
Vanessa atalanta
Multiple
Mar.-Apr.
Oct.-Nov.
Nettle Urtica holosericea 
Baby tears  Soleirolia soleirolii
Gulf fritillary,
Agraulis vanillae
Gulf Fritillary,
Agraulis vanillae
Jan.-Dec. Passion-flower vine Passiflora spp. 
Behr's Metalmark,
Apodemia virgulti
Mar.-Apr.
Aug.-Sep.
Buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum 
Wright’s metalmark,
Calephelis wrighti
Multiple
Mar.-Oct.
Sweetbush Bebbia juncea
Dusky metalmark,
Calephelis nemesis
3
Feb.-Oct.
Bush Sunflower, Mule Fat Encelia californica, Baccharis glutinosa
Purple hairstreak,
Atlides halesus
Multiple
Mar.-Oct.
Mistletoe Phoradendron tomentosum 
Western pygmy blue,
Brephidium exilis
Multiple
Jan.-Dec.
Saltbush Atriplex sp.
Goosefoot  Chenopodium sp.
Tumbleweed  Salsola iberica
Bramble hairstreak,
Callophrys perplexa
1
Mar.-Apr.
Buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum 
Deerweed Lotus scoparius
Echo blue,
Celastrina argiolus
1-2
Feb.-Jul.
California lilac Ceanothus spp. 
Southern blue,
Glaucopsyche lygdamus
1
Feb.-Apr.
Deerweed Lotus scoparius 
Boisduval's hairstreak,
Habrodais grunus
1
Jun.-Aug.
Canyon oak Quercus chrysolepis 
Nut-brown hairstreak,
Satyrium saepium
1
May-Jul.
Buck Brush Ceanothus cuneatus
Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak,
Satyrium tetra

 
California or Birch-leaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides
 
Reakirt's blue,
Echinargus isola alce
Apr.-Oct. Mesquite Prosopis sp.
Western elfin,
Incisalia augustinus
1
Feb.-Jun.
Dodder Cuscuta spp.
Marine blue,
Leptotes marina
Multiple
Feb.-Nov.
Leadwort Plumbago sp.
Tailed copper,
Lycaena arota
1
May-Jul.
Gooseberry Ribes californicum 
Gorgon copper, Lycaena gorgon 1
May-Jul.
Buckwheat Eriogonum elongatum 
Purplish copper,
Lycaena helloides
Multiple
Mar.-Nov.
Wild rhubarb Rumex spp.
Great Copper,
Lycaena xanthoides

1
June
Several dock species  
Bernardino blue,
Philotes battoides
1
Apr.-Jul.
Buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum 
Sonora blue,
Philotes sonorensis
1
Feb.-May
Live forever Dudleya lanceolata 
Acmon blue,
Plebejus acmon
Multiple
Feb.-Oct.
Deerweed Lotus scoparius 
Trabuco blue, Plebejus icarioides Apr.-Jun. Bush Lupine Lupinus excubitus var. hallii
Buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum
Sylvan hairstreak, Satyrium sylvinus 1
May-Aug.
Willow Salix spp.
Common hairstreak,
Strymon melinus
Multiple
Feb.-Nov.
Hibiscus Hibiscus sp.
Cheeseweed Malva parviflora
Hops Humulus sp.
False indigo Amorpha
Buckwheat Eriogonum spp.
Senna  Cassia sp.
Avalon hairstreak,
Strymon avalona
Feb.-Oct. Deerweed Lotus scoparius 
Buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum
Funereal duskywing, Erynnis funeralis 3
Feb.-Nov.
Deerweed Lotus scoparius 
Mournful duskywing,
Erynnis trystis
Multiple
Feb.-Sep.
Coast live oak Quercus agrifolia
Large white skipper, Heliopetes ericetorum 2
Apr.-Oct.
Bush mallow Malacothamnus fasciculatus 
Juba skipper,
Hesperia juba
2
Apr.-Jun.
Aug.-Sep.
Grasses  
Fiery skipper,
Hylephila phyleus
Apr.-Nov. Bermuda grass Cynodon dactylon 
Rural skipper, Ochlodes agricola Mar.-Jul. Grasses  
Woodland skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides May-Oct. Grasses  
Wandering skipper,
Panoquina panoquinoides

 
Multiple
Mar.-Nov.
Salt grass Distichlis spicata
Umber skipper,
Paratrytone melane

Multiple
Mar.-Oct.

Bermuda grass Cynodon dactylon 
Checkered skipper, Pyrgus albescens  Feb.-Oct. Alkali mallow Sida hederacea 
Sandhill Skipper, Polites sabuleti

Multiple
Mar.-Oct.

Salt grass Distichlis spicata

Primary source: Orsak, Larry J. (1978) "The Butterflies of Orange County, California". Published by the Center for Pathobiology, University of California, Irvine.  Here is a letter from him: Killing Butterflies to Save Butterflies

CNPS Gallery - Butterfly Plants by Karen Callahan

Sources of plants and seeds:

California Native Plant Society (Dan Sonster) (949) 768-0431
Theodore Payne Foundation (818) 768-1802
Tree of Life Nursery (949) 728-0685
Moon Mountain Wildflowers (805) 684-2565
Larner Seeds (415) 868-9407
S&S Seeds (Jody Miller, - Manager) ssseeds@silcom.com (805) 684-0436.

Other lepidopteran web sites

Orange County:
XERCES SOCIETY ANNUAL BUTTERFLY COUNT
California:
Birds and Butterflies of San Diego County
Butterflies of the San Gabriel Mountains
Current Butterfly Report for the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains

Garden Butterfly Report for the Pasadena-San Gabriel Valley Area
Lanaba
Other U.S.:
The Butterfly Site
Southeastern Arizona butterflies
Southeastern Arizona moths
Common Caterpillars of SE Arizona
Northern Mexico and Sonora butterflies
Sphingidae and Saturniidae of Sonora, Mexico
Mountain Ranges, habitats and classic locations of SE Arizona
CATERPILLAR HOSTPLANTS DATABASE
Butterfly House at the Devonian Botanic Garden
The Butterfly WebSite Picture Gallery.

Butterfly WebSite Mario Maier Picture Gallery XX.
Wings of summer
Europe:
European butterflies
The butterflies starting page
General:
Endangered Butterflies

Moth Collecting and Curation Techniques

Return to Natural History of Orange County, California