A host plant is a plant that butterflies lay their eggs on. They lay their eggs on specific plants that they know their caterpillars will be able to eat. Butterfly host plants can also be called larval host plants or caterpillar host plants. Many of the 500 species of butterflies in the US rely on a small group of host plants for their eggs. For example, Monarchs only use Milkweeds as their host plant, Pipevine Swallowtails use pipevines, and Gulf Fritillaries use passionflower. Host plants play a critical role during the caterpillar stage and begins the lifecycle of the butterflies. If at all possible choose native host plants for your garden.
Nectar plants and host plants aren’t necessarily the same thing. While both are important butterfly plants, nectar plants provide food for adult butterflies. They come to these flowering plants to drink the nectar. Host plants provide the food for caterpillars. Again, you should always choose to plant native nectar and host plants. Native plants are tied to the lifecycle of numerous butterflies.
For a list of Host and Nectar Plants, please click on the links below!
Host and Nectar Plants for Butterflies of Tennessee:
- Swallowtails (Papilionidae) Host and Nectar Plants
- Whites and Sulphurs (Pieridae) Host and Nectar Plants
- Gossamer-Winged (Lycaenidae) Host and Nectar Plants
- Brush-Footed (Nymphalidae) Host and Nectar Plants
- Skipper (Hesperiidae) Host and Nectar Plants