Butterfly Garden Tips: Larval Host Plants for True Brushfoots

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picture of a white peacock butterfly, part of the butterfly garden series

Building a successful butterfly garden can be as easy as knowing which types of plants attract butterflies. Most adult butterflies nectar on a variety of flowering plants. However, a successful butterfly garden also means having plants attractive to the larval forms of butterflies, caterpillars.

A quick survey of the average American butterfly garden often ends with true brushfoots leading the list with the highest amount of species. That fact translates into true brushfoots representing the average garden butterfly.

Because most true brushfoots sport orange color wings, identifying them can be a relatively easy task. Match a common names such as comma butterflies, crescent butterflies or checkerspot butterflies with a specific wing pattern and butterfly identification task becomes one of identifying individual species.

This guide provides an introductory garden butterfly identification guide featuring most of the common True Brushfoots. Including the Vanessa Butterflies (Ladies and Admiral) presented on a separate page. The Brushfoot button at the top of the page leads to the home page for the other nine subfamilies in the brushfoot butterfly family.

In many instances the host larval plant for the species is provided to help visitors and members decide on the types of plants that might be suited to their vision of a butterfly garden.

It starts with the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), pictured above. White Peacocks are the most common Anartia species, inhabiting the southernmost areas of Arizona, east to Florida. Strays can be found in the Southeast and Midwest.

Caterpillars feed on Water hyssop and Wild Petunia plants. Adults nectar on flowers in the vicinity of the caterpillar host plants.

Patch Butterflies

picture of the top view of a bordered patch butterfly
Patch butterflies belong to one of the Checkerspot buterfly genera. The looks and diets of the butterflies however, are completely different than he checkerboard wing look common to Checkerspots.

They are common garden butterfly species in some areas along the southern border.

The Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia), the most widespread of the five patch species, inhabits areas of the Southwest, Midwest and South Texas.

It’s a medium sized butterfly with a variable wing pattern. The most common forms have black wings and a orange to yellow band running along both the top hind wing and fore wing. White spots are visible along the wing borders.

Caterpillars feed on plants in the sunflower family and adults nectar from a variety of flowers. Their adaptability to a variety of food and nectar sources partially explains their wide range.

picture of the top view of a California Patch
The California Patch can be found in most gardens in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona. Like the Bordered Patch, their larvae feed on plants in the daisy family.

picture of the top view of a crimson patch butterfly
The Crimson Patch, a late summer and fall butterfly of South Texas and New Mexico, sports red patches on otherwise dark wings.

Caterpillars feed on a variety of honeysuckle plants (Anisacanthus), whose flowers attract hummingbirds. Adults nectar on a variety of flowers.

Buckeye Butterflies

picture of a common buckeye butterfly
The Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) deserves its name because with the exception of some areas in the extreme Pacific Northwest, it ranges across much of North America.

The brown wings with colorful eye spots make it a fairly easy butterfly to identify.

picture of a common buckeye butterfly
Caterpillars, like the one shown in the picture, feed on a variety of snapdragons, plantains and wild petunias.

picture of a Mangrove Buckeye Butterfly
The Mangrove Buckeye has the smallest range of the three.

Their caterpillars eat the leaves of Black Mangrove trees, a staple along Florida coastal areas.

Since Black Mangroves are also found along much of the coastal areas of the Gulf Coast, a changing climate could potentially spur migration of the Mangrove Buckeye to those areas.

Tortoiseshell Butterflies

picture of a California tortoiseshell butterfly
The California Tortoiseshell (pictured), the Compton Tortoiseshell and Mourning Cloak represent the Nymphalis genus.

California Tortoiseshells are Western butterflies, one of many orange brushfoot species, and one of the first spring arrivals. The black border that surrounds the wings is one helpful identification trait.

During certain years, California Tortoiseshell populations erupt, and large numbers, often reaching the thousands range, migrate. At these times, a mile long drive along a Western mountain pass might mean driving through a group of ten thousand Tortoiseshells.

The caterpillars feed on lilac plants.

picture of a Mourning Cloak butterfly
The Mourning Cloak, although in the same genus as the California Tortoiseshell, looks substantially different.

The caterpillars feed on leaves from a variety of trees, including willow and elm, which partially explains it wide spread distribution.

Many adults hibernate during the winter, becoming one of the first species seen when the weather warms during spring.

picture of a Milbert's tortoiseshell butterfly
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, one of two Aglais species is predominantly a northern species, inhabiting marsh areas in Alaska, Canada and the northern United States.

Yellow and orange coloration spice up otherwise dull brown wings.

The caterpillars feed on stinging nettles and adults enjoy nectaring on fruit, sap and occasionally flowers.