Butterflies and Immigrants

Anise Swallowtail

Anise Swallowtail
Photo: Robert Gorman

Many of the plants in the urban landscape of the United States are not native to the U.S. Many of our native plants do not thrive in our urban areas or have undesirable horticultural characteristics. In our butterfly gardens, it is not the native host plant that is grown but a foreign immigrant. Shapiro* points out that that elimination of all non-native plants from San Francisco would surely eliminate the Anise Swallowtail, Papilio zelicaon. The host plant for Papilio zelicaon caterpillars is Rangers Buttons, Sphenosciadium capitellatum, the only native California plant in the carrot family. In urban areas, caterpillars commonly feed on fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, a native of the Mediterranean shores.

In Indiana, the Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, feeds on Prickly Ash and Hop Tree, species rarely planted in gardens. However, Garden Rue, Ruta graveolens, serves as a host in urban butterfly gardens. Humans have spread desirable plants around the world for food production and other purposes. Some of those immigrants can be useful for promoting urban butterflies.

*Arthur M. Shapiro. 2002. The Californian Urban Butterfly Fauna Is Dependent on Alien Plants. Diversity and Distributions, 8: 31-40.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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One Response to Butterflies and Immigrants

  1. Pingback: Butterflies and Immigrants | Entomo Planet

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