Theodore Payne California Native Plant Database




Butterflies

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Compiled by the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants, Inc. Printable PDF version here

The typical butterfly flower is a daisy-like single bloom (Encelia) or a cluster of small individual flowers (Eriogonum). Butterflies, like hummingbirds, have long tongues to access nectar at the base of the flower petals. But unlike hummingbirds, they seek out flowers with “landing pads” to support them while they feed. As caterpillars, they prefer tender leaves and petals. Most butterflies will only lay eggs on specific host plants.

Some of the Butterflies and Moths found in Southern California

FORAGE SOURCES:

VINES

  • Aristolochia californica, Dutchman’s Pipe – Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Sarcostemma cynanchoides v. hartwegii, Climbing Milkweed – Striated Queen

SHRUBS & PERENNIALS

  • Asclepias species, Milkweed – Monarch, Striated Queen
  • Baccharis glutinosa/salicifolia, Mule Fat or Seep Willow – Dusky Metalmark
  • Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat – many, especially Blues; nectar source for many species
  • Eriogonum parvifolium, Seacliff or Coast Buckwheat – El Segundo Blue (El Segundo area only; endangered) Grasses – many small butterflies, especially Skippers, Ringlets, and Satyrs
  • Lotus scoparius, Deerweed – Blue, Duskywings; also a good nectar source
  • Lupinus excubitus, Interior Bush Lupine – Coastal Arrowhead Blue, Erius Blue (San Gabriel Mtns. area only)
  • Malacothamnus spp. and other plants in the Mallow Family – West Coast Lady, Western Checkered Skipper
  • Mimulus spp., Monkey Flower – Common Checkerspot, Buckeye (also Scrophularia californica)
  • Rhamnus californica, California Coffeeberry – Pale Swallowtail
  • Ribes aureum, Golden Currant and Ribes sanguineum, Pink-Flowering Currant – Coppers, Anglewings


TREES

  • Platanus racemosa, Western Sycamore – Western Tiger Swallowtail
  • Quercus agrifolia, Coast Live Oak –California Sister, California hairstreak; many caterpillars feed on various oaks
  • Salix spp., Willow – Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Lorquin’s Admiral; Hairstreaks


SOURCES OF NECTAR (many choices):

  • Achillea millefolium, Yarrow – large flower clusters provide the perfect landing pad; birds like the seeds, too
  • Aster chilensis, Wild Aster – excellent nectar source, long-blooming through summer and fall
  • Calliandra californica, California Fairyduster and Calliandra eriophylla, Fairyduster
  • Ceanothus species - California Lilac - a sweet-scented magnet for pollinators
  • Cirsium occidentale, Western Thistle (and other native thistles) – a favorite of many species; birds love the seeds
  • Encelia species, California Bush Sunflower – also great for moths, beetles, and lots of other flying creatures
  • Grindelia stricta, Gum Plant – butterflies love the nectar-rich, gummy flowers
  • Lupinus species, Lupine – mostly Blues such as the Common Hairstreak and Acmon Blue
  • Salvia species, Sage – many butterflies; also hummingbirds and bees
  • Sambucus mexicana, Elderberry – large yellow-cream flower clusters also much-visited by bees
  • Verbena gooddingii, Desert Verbena and Verbena lilacina, Lilac Verbena – nectar-rich, fragrant, fast-growing
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