Butterflies have 2 main needs to complete their life cycle and successfully reproduce. As adult winged butterflies they require foraging habitat rich in nectar producing flowers. The nectar is required for energy needed to locate mates, and host plants. Butterflies have to be very particular about what host plants they lay their eggs on. Having a shared evolutionary history with native plants Butterfly species have each been able to crack the code of certain families of native plants. Code cracking means as adults they can locate their host plant species by its unique smell from chemicals in it leaves. Then as caterpillars their gut has the specific enzymes need to digest and break down the toxins in the leaves of that particular plant species. Plants don’t want to be eaten and produce toxins in their leaves. These toxins prevent herbivores both mammal and insect from eating them unless they have developed the enzymes needed to neutralize the toxins. Some species such as the Baltimore Checkerspot, or Monarch only have the ability to digest 1 family of plants. This ties their entire existence to a stable population of that host plant. Fortunately most species of butterfly have evolved with the ability to eat several families of plants.
Doug Tallamy has pioneered the research for Butterfly and moth caterpillar host plants, and composed detailed list about exactly what number of species are supported by each Genus of our native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. All are not equal and certain ones support no caterpillars and others 100’s of species.
Let us design your landscape to maximize aesthetics, properly locate plants where their water and sunlight needs are met, and insure your success in attracting butterflies. If there is a particular species you are interested in attracting let us know, and we can customize your design, to make sure it includes the Butterflies host plants and favorite nectar sources.