Activities & Experiments

Butterfly Garden Host Plant TourDog violet & Orange Fritillary

Holden Arboretum

Adult - Beginner, Adult - Intermediate

Dog violet (Viola labradorica) is a low-growing perennial that blooms with vibrant purple flowers in the spring.

If it weren’t for these showy flowers, many would likely walk right by this plant, as it grows across the shady forest floors.

Adult Orange Fritillary butterflies prefer plants in the violet family to support their survival and the survival of their offspring. Adults lay thousands of eggs in the shady understory, often on any plant they can find. The eggs laid on plants in the violet family will be eggs to survive. Most eggs hatch in the fall and overwinter nearby violet plants as little caterpillars. Come spring, they awake and immediately start feeding on the plants fresh spring foliage. Without violets, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the fritillary butterfly.

Where else can you see this plant growing at the Arboretum?

About the Butterfly Garden Host Plant Tour Series

Butterflies and plants coevolved to support each other’s life cycles. Plants employ the help of butterflies to transfer pollen to other plants of the same species resulting in reproduction and fertilization of a seed. Butterflies use plants for food and protection, and many have special relationships with host plants, plants that they lay their eggs on and serve as food for the hatched caterpillars.

A strong butterfly population requires a diverse, native plant community, which contributes to a healthy ecosystem for all living things to thrive on.

Explore the special relationships between native host plants and local butterflies. What can host plants tell us about our favorite butterflies? Host plants marked with a butterfly symbol un your host plant brochure are stops on a self-guided tour through the garden. Look for signs in the butterfly garden and scan the QR code to access each stop’s information.

Explore the series

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