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Native Plants for Caterpillars!

Native plants for caterpillars? I don't want caterpillars, I want butterflies, where's that post?! Wait, I'll get to that too! But first, the caterpillars. When we hear about pollinator gardens, more often than not we are hearing about plants you can grow that are for bees and butterflies. While that is all well and good, you can't actually have butterflies without caterpillars so rather than focusing just on the final stage, you might want to think about what you can plant to support the whole life cycle. While many beautiful butterflies could be drawn in by flowers, many adults actually don't eat at all or they eat other things like rotting fruit, tree sap or other decaying matter. It makes sense then that you would have a better chance of seeing them if you have the plants they want to lay eggs on or that they can emerge as adults on. And it's not just butterflies that you want for your pollinator garden! Moths have actually been shown to visit more flower species than bees and butterflies and are an important key to supporting biodiversity whether it is in your yard or out in the wild. Not only are moths important pollinators, they are also an important food source for birds and bats both as adults and caterpillars. Caterpillars also provide a nursery for many parasitic wasps that are working in your yard to keep populations of other insects like aphids in check. Some of them also happen to be super funky looking making them fun to have in the garden! Yes, caterpillars eat leaves and sometimes plants look a little ugly after they have been on them but if you want butterflies in your yard, you will have to tolerate a little bit of aesthetic imperfection. Having these trees, shrubs and perennials doesn't guarantee you will have butterflies and moths but without anything for them, it pretty much guarantees you won't! So without further ado, here is a list of native plants you can grow to support some of our native butterfly and moth caterpillars!

Trees and Shrubs

- River Alder - Alnus incana (tenuifolia)

- River Birch - Betula occidentalis

- Paper Birch - Betula papyrifera

- Green Alder - Alnus viridis crispa

- Narrow Leaf Polar - Populus angustifolia

- Balsam Poplar - Populus balsamifera

- ‘Paskapoo’ Poplar – A cultivar of one of our native poplars, designed to fit into the urban landscape

- Trembling Aspen - Populus tremuloides

- Dwarf Birch - Betula glandulosa

- Gooseberry - Ribes oxycanthoides

- Barrett Willow - Salix barrattiana

- Bebb Willow - Salix bebbiana

- Hoary Willow - Salix candida

- Powerface Willow - Salix commutata 'Powderface'

- Pussy Willow - Salix discolor

- Sandbar Willow - Salix exigua

- Tawny Willow - Salix lucida

- Yellow Pussy Willow - Salix lutea

- Black Bud Willow - Salix petiolaris

- Lodgepole Pine - Pinus contorta

- Ponderosa Pine - Pinus ponderosa

- Douglas Fir - Pseudotsuga menziesii

- White Spruce - Picea glauca

- Black Spruce - Picea mariana

- Tamarack (Larch) - Larix laricina

- Red Twig Dogwood - Cornus sericea

- Pincherry - Prunus pensylvanica

- Chokecherry - Prunus virginiana

- Blueberries - Vaccinium sp.

- Cranberry - Vibernum sp.

- Roses - Rosa sp.

- Skunkbush - Rhus aromatica

- Maple - Acer glabrum, A. negundo

- Wild Raspberry - Rubus ideaus

- Juniper - Juniperus sp.

- Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea, S. canadensis

- Saskatoon bush - Amelanchier alnifolia

- Snowberry - Symphoricarpos albus, S. occidentalis


- Penstemons - Penstemon sp.

- Paintbrush - Castilleja sp.

- Goldenrod - Solidago sp.

- Thistles - Cirsium sp.

- Scarlet Globe Mallow - Sphaeralcea coccinea

- River or Mountain Hollyhock - Iliamna rivularis

- Asters - Aster, Symphyotrichum, Eurybia sp.

- Woodnettle - Laortea canadensis

- Pennsylvania pellitory - Parietaria pensylvanica

- Common nettle - Urtica dioica

- Violets - Viola sp.

- Labrador Tea - Rhododendron neoglandulosum, R. tomentosum & R. groenlandicum

- Lance Leaf Stonecrop - Sedum lanceolatum

- Umbrella Plants - Erigonum sp.

- Bearberry or Kinnikinnick - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

- Bunchberry - Cornus canadensis

- Lupines - Lupinus sp.

- Shooting stars - Primula pauciflora, P. conjugens

- Dock and Sorrel - Rumex sp.

- Knotweed - Polygonum sp.

- Smartweed - Persicaria amphibia, P. lapathifolia

- Wild Licorice - Glycyrriza lepidota

- Willowherb - Epilobium sp.

- Rock Jasmine - Androsace sp.

- Saxifrage - Saxifraga sp.

- Showy Milkweed - Asclepias specious

- Fescue grasses - Festuca sp.

- Sedges - Carex sp.

- Cinquefoil - Potentilla sp.

- Draba - Draba sp.

- Rockcress - Arabidopsis, Arabis & Boechera sp.

- Flax - Linum lewisii & L. rigidum

- Tall Bluebells - Mertensia paniculata, M. longiflora

- Fireweed - Chaemaerion angustifolium

- Northern Bedstraw - Galium boreale

- Twining Honeysuckle - Lonicera dioica

- Buffalo Beans - Thermopsis rhombifolia

Sphinx Moth on Fireweed (Chaemaerion angustifolia)

Red Admiral Butterfly. Caterpillars of this beauty feed on nettles.

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