Moth and Butterfly Host Plants

Many species of butterfly are linked to particular species of plants. Here are a few examples of local species we observe in Cambridge and their host plants.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Food sources for adults

Red or pink flowers; especially, in these families: ApocynaceaeAsteraceae, and Fabaceae (legumes).

Host plants on which eggs are laid and caterpillars feed

  • Wild black cherry-Prunus serotina
  • Ash-Fraxinus spp.
  • Cottonwood-Populus spp.
  • Wafer ash/hop tree-Ptelea trifoliata
  • Common Lilac-Syinga vulgaris
  • Sweet bay magnolia-Magnolia virginiana
  • Tulip poplar/tulip tree-Liriodedron tulipifera
  • Willow-Salix sap.

Not all butterfly adults feed on flower nectar.

Mourning Cloak

Food sources for adults

Mourning Cloaks prefer tree sap, especially that of oaks. They walk down the trunk to the sap and feed head downward. They will also feed on rotting fruit, and only occasionally on flower nectar.

Caterpillar Hosts:

  • black willow (Salix nigra )
  • weeping willow (S. babylonica)
  • cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
  • aspen (P. tremuloides)
  • paper birch (Betula papyrifera)
  • hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

(Older caterpillars wander about and may be found on plants that they do not eat.)

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