Two Native Host Plants Attract Six Butterfly Species

In our native butterfly/pollinator gardens we plant both nectar plants and host plants for adult butterflies and their larvae respectively.  Nectar plants are easy as most flowering plants attract an array of pollinators.  Host plants are much more specific as to the number of species a particular plant can attract.

It is desirable to find multi-purpose host plants which may attract more than one species of butterfly whose larvae can feed upon the leaves. Two such plants are Frog Fruit (Phyla nodiflora) and Corkystem Passionvine (Passiflora suberosa). Each serves as a larval host plant for three Central Florida species of butterflies thus attracting six species to only two plants.

Frog Fruit is a diminutive ground cover plant that tolerates full sun in moist soils.  Although the plant thrives in moist conditions once established it can withstand periods of drought while it waits for the next rain.  This plant does well in planters as well and can be combined with other plants to drape over the edges of the container.  Frog fruit can mingle with other plants in a lawn and can withstand being trod upon.  For a native lawn it can be mixed with White Clover and Sunshine Mimosa and it will also blend well with other lawn grasses.two_native_plants_2

Frog Fruit.  Photo by Ken Gonyo.


Close-up of Frog Fruit flower by Bob Montanaro.

The butterfly species that use this plant as larval host are the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), and the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon).

Corkystem Passionvine as the name suggests is a climbing vine that tolerates various levels of moisture and sun exposure.  It thrives nicely in our hammocks and often starts out in the shade of the understory then climbs to reach some sun. As a hammock plant, it demands a soil rich in organic matter.  It bears very tiny flowers and small passion fruit.

Corkystem Passionvine photo by Ken Gonyo.


Small passion fruit of the Corkystem Passionvine.  Photo by Ken Gonyo.

The lobed leaves of this passiflora can take on variable shapes from a simple oval lance shape to a multi lobed shape.  Plants side by side can be taken for two distinct species.  Conjecture is that this attribute is a deception play to thwart butterflies from recognizing it as their host plant.

This plant can be used as a leafy ground cover or it can be a climbing vine on a bush, tree, or trellis.  If planted in containers it needs nutritional supplementation after the vines are stripped of leaves by foraging butterfly larvae.


Leaves and vine of the Corkystem Passionvine.  Photo by Ken Gonyo.

The butterfly species that use Corkystem as host are our Florida state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius), the Julia (Dryas iulia), and the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanilla).  The latter species is particularly aggressive in devouring the leaves.


Categories: Host Plants

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