Host Plants in the Landscape
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir
The next step in attracting pollinators is planting or maintaining the presence of host plants. These are the plants, pollinators such as butterflies and moths seek, when depositing eggs. Upon hatching from the egg attached to a leaf, the caterpillar consumes the egg case and proceeds to a readily available source of food, the leaves of the host plant. Its mother flies from plant to plant, using the sensors located in her feet to “taste” leaves to find the correct plant for her offspring.
A variety of host plants in the local landscape will attract a variety of pollinators. Many host plants are actually considered weeds by most people. Resisting the impulse to remove all the wild spaces in the landscape will help pollinators and other wild creatures. Intend to “untend.”
A Gulf Fritillary caterpillar crawls on its host plant, a native passion vine, Passiflora lutea.
Common in moist, wooded areas, this passion vine grows profusely, climbing trees and fences. Support the Gulf Fritillary by allowing this host plant to remain in the landscape. It is also the host plant for the Zebra Longwing butterfly. Learn more about Passiflora lutea at the USDA website. Click here to access the site.
Adult Gulf Fritillary on a nectar plant, the zinnia
The Alabama Butterfly Atlas website is a good source of pictures of the host plant, Passiflora lutea, as well as this gorgeous coastal butterfly. Click here to access the site.
A Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar rests on a Sassafras leaf.
Native trees, including Sassafras, Red Bay, and Swamp Bay are host plants, suffering from Laurel wilt. This disease is caused by a fungus transmitted by an invasive red bay ambrosia beetle. Laurel wilt threatens the Spicebush swallowtail and other pollinators. Learn more about controlling this disease at the Alabama forestry commission website . Click here to access the site.
Adult Spicebush swallowtail on a nectar plant, commonly called butterfly bush, scientific name, Buddleia davidii
The University of Florida has extensive information concerning the four stages of the Spicebush’s lifecycle. Click here to access the site.