Subject: butterfly host plant gardens in south pasadena
May 1, 2013 1:16 pm
Hi I’m planting a couple gardens in so. pas./highland park (south pas. community garden, residential backyard) with a focus on native caterpillar host plants, as an ongoing art-project of sorts.
I’ve done a lot of research and am constantly looking for butterflies in the area these days. I would love some advice/input on what species of butterflies you’ve come across in the general east side area. I’ve started a google map to record sightings
I’m an artist who recently graduated from CGU, and when I saw that Daniel is an art professor and friend of Lisa Anne Auerbach (my former housemate adopted a wonderful cat from her), I thought wow this dude is cool.
Thank you!
Best wishes,
Signature: steve wong

Monarch Caterpillar on Indian Milkweed

Monarch Caterpillar on Indian Milkweed

Dear Steve,
This is a very complicated question, and we will have to work on it in stages.  First, we believe you have overated Daniel’s cool factor.  He has been working with the Mount Washington Beautification Committee (including retired Natural History Museum of Los Angeles lepidopterist Julian Donahue) on a Butterfly Garden in Elyria Canyon Park for two years now, and since there is no irrigation and we just had a very dry winter, many plants did not survive.  You have the right idea to plant larval foodplants, but many times they are not as showy as nectar plants, so they are overlooked when setting up a butterfly garden.  Striking a balance between nectar plants and foodplants, and natives versus introduced plants is a challenge.  Many common local butterflies do not feed on natives, or have adapted to feeding on cultivated plants since natives are often in short supply.  An easy place to start is with milkweed, which is both a nectar plant and a larval foodplant for the Monarch butterfly.  Native milkweeds include
Asclepias eriocarpa, Indian Milkweed, and Asclepias fascicularis, the Narrow-Leafed Milkweed.  Both plants are perennials that die back in the winter and resprout in late spring.

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail

You might want to begin planning your garden with a few select native trees.  The Western Tiger Swallowtail was our largest local butterfly prior to the introduction of the Giant Swallowtail.  The caterpillar of the Giant Swallowtail feeds on the leaves of non-native citrus.  The caterpillars of the Western Tiger Swallowtail feeds on the leaves of native Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa.  You can also plant a Western Willow, Salix lasiandra.  The leaves of the Western Willow are eaten by Western Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars as well as the caterpillars of the Mourning Cloak, another large native butterfly that is relatively common because it also feeds on the leaves of the cultivated Chinese Elm.

Mourning Cloak in Elyria Canyon Park

Mourning Cloak in Elyria Canyon Park

Other excellent native nectar producing plants are Mule Fat (Baccharis salicifolia), California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and Long-Stemmed Buckwheat, (Eriogonum elongatum).  Both Buchwheats have the added advantage of providing food for the caterpillars of several species of Blues and Hairstreaks, tiny butterflies that can sometimes be especially numerous.  We hope this helps you in your plans.  We are attaching our list of plants targeted for our own butterfly garden and since Mount Washington is adjacent to Highland Park, you should get many of the same species.

Painted Lady on Baccharis

Painted Lady on Baccharis

Thank you so much for the advice! Yes, I think milkweeds are a great idea, I’m growing about 50 (mostly A. fascicularis, a handful of eriocarpa) seedlings right now.
I don’t have any places that can handle the size of a sycamore (i wish i could, they are my fav. tree) but I think I’ll be able to plant willows! I was not aware of them as host plants, so I’m psyched to learn about them. I’ve got some garden space that can handle them i think.
If you’d like to have some plants to replace the ones that did not survive the winter, let me know, perhaps I can start some seedlings and get them up to speed for fall planting.
I’ll keep you updated on progress if you like, and the link to the butterfly sightings map didn’t work, but this should:
I’ve added you as a collaborator, just in case it might interest you.
Thanks again, your website is such a wonderful thing.
Best wishes,

Hi Steve,
We would love to get additional milkweed plants.  Please post a comment to this posting so that we can easily contact you and please update the posting when you have additional information.  I have a native willow I can probably part with.

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Location: Highland Park, Los Angeles, California

6 Responses to Artist Wants information on Butterfly Garden

  1. Sleepy Maggie says:

    The yellow swallowtails (and their black phases) were all over all of my fruit trees while they were in bloom, especially the native plums, which have such exquisite-smelling blossoms. I’ve never seen butterflies out so early and in such cool weather!

    Now that the fruit trees are done blooming, they have moved on to the dogtooth violets and horsemint. They don’t seem to be so crazy about the wild chamomile and cornflower, though.

    Later in the year I always see them on echinacea and every form of rudbeckia and gailardia. And I always plant lots and lots of extra dill, because their caterpillars just really love that!

  2. steve wong says:

    Sounds good! I’ll make sure to have a bunch of milkweed ready in a couple months and let you know. I’d really appreciate a native willow, even if it’s just a cutting. Thanks!

    • bugman says:

      That sounds great. Maybe we can meet at Antigua once the semester is completed. Have you tried the coffee shop in Cypress Park?

  3. steve wong says:

    Wonderful! I haven’t been to Antigua, but it sounds great.

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