Category Archives: Butterfly Host Plants

Butterfly Education Day at San Clemente State Beach

Butterfly Education Day at San Clemente State Beach is a worthwhile event to educate and celebrate our successful community stewardship of Butterfly Trail, a recognized monarch butterfly overwintering bivouac site in Orange County.

This event will include a butterfly tent, live exhibits, speakers, face painting, crafts and guided trail hikes and more!  Perfect day for the whole family.  Bring a sack lunch and enjoy a picnic in the park.

The free event ($5 for parking) is sponsored by the San Onofre Foundation in celebration of the successful community stewardship effort along Butterfly Trail and to further engage the public through educational outreach. What is accomplished on the trail through civic, school, and agency partnerships is something that makes our entire community proud.

We’re fortunate that the San Onofre Foundation (SOF) has created this unique opportunity to promote State Parks’ educational and interpretive resources through this event. In addition to partnering with California State Parks, the SOF has received grant support from the National Environmental Education Foundation’s Every Day Event Grant program made possible by Toyota.

For more information visit:



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Have You Ever Been Mallow?

Have you ever been Mallow, have you ever tried?

The pertinent question here is have you ever tried using Mallow in your Butterfly Garden?

If you have never used Mallow in your Butterfly Garden, then try it and you will be in for a pleasant surprise! Mallows are flowering plants in the hibiscus family (Malvaceae). They are not only attractive, when in bloom, flaunting an abundance of delicate and colorful florets, but also, hardy too.

It’s no wonder that a variety of North American butterflies, including but not limited to, the Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, West Coast Lady Vanessa annabella, Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, Grey Hairsteak Strymon melinus, Northern White Skipper Heliopetes ericetorum and Common Checkered Skipper Pyrgus communis all claim this lovely plant as a host.

Beautiful species of Mallows can be found throughout the North American and European continents. Here in California, we typically have showy and drought resistant native Chaparral Mallows Malacothamnus, which grow in the form of small trees or shrubs.

Pink Bushmallow Malacothamnus fasciculatus and Apricot Mallow Sphaeraicea ambigua are two California native species which might be encountered while hiking in our local foothills, especially during summer months.

The hot pink and more tropical, Island Bush Mallow Lavatera assurgentiflora can also be found throughout the coastal mainland of California. It can usually be spotted in cultivated gardens, as it is an escapee, and truly only native to the nearby Channel Islands.

Have you ever been happy just to hear your song…?

If attracting butterflies to your garden is your gig, then be sure to make room for a Mallow in your garden! With all the butterflies and blooms abound, you will find yourself both mellow and delighted to be sure!


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Egg Laying… Not just for the Birds!

"Do you have time for bon bons?" Asked Mother Robin of the Butterfly.

Monarch Butterfly Egg

Giant Sulphur Butterfly Egg

In nature, when it comes to motherhood and eggs, the female butterfly soars with the best of them. Although, she may not have to sit on her wee ones for 12-14 hours a day, as the Robin does, she will devote almost her entire existence to being an expert egg layer.

Butterfly eggs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Depending on the species of butterfly, the eggs could be rounded or pointy, they could be brown, white, pink, blue or green, they could be laid singularly, in twos or in groups of a hundred at a time. All these factors and many more come into play as the female butterfly chooses where and when to deposit her tiny specs of life.

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly Egg

Question Mark Butterfly Eggs

Green eggs go on green leaves, as camouflage is important to defend from predators. Pointy eggs may be laid in groups, because there is safety in numbers. The correct, safe and healthy, host plant must be found and on it the perfect leaf must be present or my babies may not survive. So much for eating bon bons or fluttering about without a care in the world!

In a brief and dangerous season of life, female butterflies have to work skillfully and quickly to ensure the survival of their species. Like many of the other mommies found in the natural world, their efforts are to be valued and are not just for the birds!

To learn more about Female Butterflies and their Eggs visit the OWB Dimension pages 

Others labor from sun to sun but a Mother's work in never done! ~ Unknown

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Deerweed is not just for Deer…

Lotus scoparius, also commonly known as Deerweed,

is definitely not just for Deer!

In California, Arizona, and parts of Mexico, Deerweed sets the foothills ablaze in color from early spring through summer. This brightly hued perennial is a hot spot for local wildlife, butterflies included. Margaret Huffman of the North American Butterfly Association calls this lovely lotus “the best butterfly plant for Southern California”.

The Silvery Blue, Glaucopsyche lygdamus, Bramble Hairstreak, Callophrys perplexa, Funereal Duskywing, Erynnis funeralis and Avalon Scrub Hairstreak, Strymon avalona, all use this hardy plant as a host. Female Gray Hairstreaks, Strymon melinus, Orange Sulphurs , Colias eurytheme, Acmon Blues, Icaricia acmon, Marine Blues, Leptotes marina, and Chalcedon Checkerspots, Euphydryas chalcedona, are also rumored to have frequented its flames in search of a place to lay their eggs.

Changing in color from yellow to red once pollinated, Deerweed’s fiery buds attract many other pollinators as well, including the Yellow-faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii. Rodents, birds and other seed eating creatures partake in its zestful foliage too. Male butterflies can often be found setting up territories near Deerweed. And not to worry; Deer, for whom this plant is not so aptly named, do not find themselves burned where foraging is concerned, as this hearty and drought tolerant native has ample to share.

Lotus scoparius is also known as Deervetch, California Broom and Western Bird’s-Foot Trefoil. It is a sub-shrub in the Pea Family and is commonly found in many areas including chaparral, coastal sand and at roadsides (elevations below 1500 m.). Ironically, despite its blazing appearance, Lotus scoparius is often used and planted for habitat restoration and erosion control after a brush fire. Plant Deerweed , Lotus scoparius, in you garden today and help butterflies and other native species to thrive. KD



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Smoking Swallowtails? Dutchman’s Pipevine Butterflies gone wild…

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on Pink Saliva

A male pipevine swallowtail attempts to flirt with a female as she lays her eggs...

I recently visited a grove where the Pipevine Swallowtail’s host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine, grew vigorously. Here, in this shaded and otherwise peaceful wood, there was a state of butterfly pandemonium happening.

Male butterflies zealously chased female butterflies hoping to strike up a romance. The maternally driven ladies ignored the amorous males advances, and instead, tirelessly their laid eggs.


Female Pipevine Butterflies Laying Eggs

Other winged chaps spent their time attempting to defend their precious territories. Boldly these fellows chased their counterparts about the treetops, creating flashes of brilliant blue which rivaled the skies above. Stoic females continued to cooly oviposit, again, dismissing out of wing, the males showy displays.

The forest was a frenzy of flutter! Everywhere I stood I was bombarded by the scuttle of a wing. It was courtship chaos where no basking perch, nectar blossom nor host tendril was safe!

Are these Pipevine Swallowtail ingesting their host plant or smoking it?

The pipevine butterflies exhibited crazed mating and reproductive behaviors, as if they had all gone wild with passion. In no other species have I observed the sexes acting out their respective roles in such a fervent manner.

Made me wonder for a moment, if these swallowtail caterpillars had actually smoked, instead of ingested their host plant, the Dutchman’s Pipevine?

This hardy vine does, after all, as it’s name suggests, resemble a Dutchman’s pipe. When in bloom it flaunts, amongst it’s green-hearted foliage, oddly shaped flowers which form in an appearance similar to that of a dutchman’s pipe.

Dutchman's Pipevine (Aristolochia gigantea)

Male Pipevine on Purple Penstemon

Whatever the motivation, pipes or genetics, what was going on in the grove that day was nothing short of spectacular to behold for the butterfly enthusiast. Pipevine swallowtails are indeed vibrant and entertaining creatures at every stage of their development.

Years ago, when less exotic planting choices where available at local nurseries, people commonly grew Dutchman’s Pipevine in their gardens. Often they used it to cover and adorn porches, arbors and fences. Pipevine swallowtails could then be found more frequently in populated areas, even in urban neighborhoods.

To ensure the survival of this species be sure to plant Dutchman’s Pipevine somewhere in your yard. Keep Mother Nature’s show going! Support her dramatic and colorful productions. Then just sit back under your vine shaded porch, sway gently on your swing and enjoy the show… and your Pipe?… vine too! KD

Male Pipevine on Yellow Yarrow

Click the  Pipevine’s Wing below to learn more about this swallowtail…

Pipevine Swallowtail Wing


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Butterfly Gardening With Manure Tea

Butterfly GardenNothing has sparked more life back into my tired (hum, or am I talking about me?) butterfly garden than Haven Brand Manure Tea!  This is not tea for drinking, but a blend of natural manure made from pesticide and antibiotic free, grass fed livestock from the Haven Ranch in San Juan Capistrano, California. Realizing the demand from local farmers for her natural soil fertilizer, Annie Haven, of Haven Ranch came up with a wonderful way to package up her naturally rich soil conditioners for the home gardener.

Pipevine SwallowtailHaven Brand manure teas keep my butterfly gardening blooming all year with lots of flowering nectar plants to feed the butterflies that visit my garden and enough healthy vegetation to feed all my “very hungry caterpillars“.  To read more about which plants caterpillars like to eat, visit our Butterfly Host Plants page.

Master magician, munching to and fro, a caterpillar works illusions til’ the end of his show ~K. D’Angelo

Western Tiger Swallowtail

There is no a better way to entice butterflies into your garden then with healthy, butterfly nectar and host plants.

Female butterflies have evolved to be very picky individuals when it comes to laying their eggs. Even when a prospective plant feels, tastes and smells just like the right species, it may be rejected by the female butterfly for a variety of reasons.  It may be to exposed to the elements. It may be to wet? Fungus could grow here! It may be to hot? The eggs might dry up? Evidence of competition may also be present. Chewed leaves mean less food available. Healthy plants means more food available for her young munching offspring. Even the prospective plant may be out to trick the female butterfly by displaying “false eggs” which advertise “no vacancy” here!

Lorquin's Admiral Egg on WillowWhat’s a mother to do? On average a female butterfly may visit up to 10 prospective host plants before picking the perfect one! Even after she has made her choice, she may spend up to 9 hours surveying and selecting precise leaves on which to deposit her eggs. You couldn’t ask for a more spectacular show then watching a female butterfly dance upon your butterfly garden for hours.

A concerned mother plans for her children’s future! She lays her eggs diligently. Depending on the species she may lay them singularly or in a group. She may lay them on the underside of a leaf or in a crevasse. Most always she lays them on the most tender leaves. She may use the simple eye” on her abdomen to lay on the tip of a twisted tendril.

Butterfly Garden Real Estate SignA female butterfly is not a Realtor, but she might as well be. Location is everything to her! Location, location, an investment in her species future…

Haven Brand Manure TeaHaven Brand Manure Teas or as Annie Haven says “Moo Poo” teas are odor free and come pre-measured and ready to brew in its own gauze draw-string pouch. It’s so easy to make brew up a jar of this miracle liquid fertilizer, just fill a container with up to five gallons of water, drop in a tea bag and let it “steep” for a day or two.  Water your indoor or outdoor plants with the brew and in no time, you’ll be rewarded with bigger, healthier plants, fruits, vegetables  and flowers!

You can find Haven Brand Natural Tea Soil Conditioners online at

Enjoy the butterflies,


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Raising Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterflies

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady Butterflies are one of the most widely distributed butterflies in the world, they can be found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Migration and the wide range of available host plants is what helps make the painted ladies so widely distributed.  The larvae (caterpillars) of Painted Ladies feed on more than 100 types of host plants, particularly Thistles (Asteraceae), Mallows (Malvaceae) which include Hollyhock (Alcea) and Cheeseweed (parviflora).

Girl Holding Painted Lady Butterfly

Mackenzie’s Butterfly

Painted Ladies are one of the easiest butterflies to raise because not only will the young larvae feed on so many different host plants, they will also feed on a specially formulated artificial diet.  This artificial diet makes it possible for the larvae to be sold in butterfly rearing kits and are often raised and studied in classrooms by elementary students.  The popularity of “Butterfly Larvae Rearing Kits” has also contributed to the distribution of these beautiful and abundant butterflies.

It’s fun and easy to raise Painted Lady Butterflies and rearing butterflies is truly an educational experience that every child will certainly enjoy and remember for years to come.  The easiest way to raise Painted Lady Butterflies is by purchasing a Butterfly Rearing Kit.

Butterfly Rearing Kit

Butterfly Rearing Kit

One of the most popular kits is made by Insect Lore, the kits include a reusable pop-up butterfly habitat, artificial diet and easy to follow instructions. The kits don’t actually contain any butterfly larvae, you will need to mail or FAX the enclosed coupon to Insect Lore, once you receive the larva in the mail, the fun begins!

The larvae will feed on the artificial diet for about 10 to 14 days and when they are ready, they will begin to crawl to the top of the food container. Once they have securely attached themselves to the top of the container, they will begin their miraculous metamorphic change, shedding their skin one last time to expose the their final layer, which is known as the chrysalis.  At which time you can transfer the lid with the attached chrysalises to the butterfly habitat.

Painted Lady Butterfly Eggs

Tiny Blue Eggs of the Painted Lady Butterfly

In about 10 to 14 days, your beautiful painted lady butterflies will emerge from their chrysalises.  You will get to enjoy watching the butterflies in the butterfly habitat.  To extend the fun and life of your newly emerged butterflies, you can feed the butterflies by providing fresh flowers for nectar and variety of fruits, like slices of banana, peach, cherries, watermelon and oranges.

After a few days in captivity, you may consider adding one of the butterfly host plants I mentioned above and you will certainly be rewarded with an ample supply of tiny blue butterfly eggs!  Make sure you will have an ample supply of pesticide free host plants to feed the hatchlings, if not or you can order some ready-made artificial diet from our butterfly gift shop.

Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae

Win A Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae Kit

If you’ve already had the pleasure of raising painted lady butterflies and already have a butterfly habitat, you will be able to simply order a butterfly refill larvae kit for your butterfly enclosure.

At anytime you may want to release your adult painted lady Butterflies into your backyard, local park or butterfly garden.

To learn more about butterfly gardening for the benefit of butterflies, visit our Butterfly Gardening web page!

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Fly Away Palos Verdes Blue!

Photo: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

The rare Palos Verdes Blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis) took flight on a wind-swept bluff of the Palos Verdes peninsula in Southern California on Saturday, March 7th 2010.  Then another. Then another! Conservationists released 80 endangered butterflies in all, each bred in captivity, venture into the wild.

It was a big step into saving the Palos Verdes Blue butterfly from extinction.  This butterfly’s life is short, living for five to 10 days, it must work quickly to reproduce. During it’s short life, it must find nectar for energy, chose a mate, locate it’s host plant, locoweed (Astragalus trichopodes var. lonchus) and finally lay eggs for the survival of it’s species.

There are now as many as 10,000 Palos Verdes Blues compared to 1994 when they were at the brink of extinction.  Still, they face years of conservationist’s help before they can be removed from the federal list of endangered species.

A big thanks to conservationist at the The Urban Wildlands Group.  The UWG is dedicated to the conservation of species, habitats, and ecological processes in urban and urbanizing areas.

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