Activities & Experiments

Butterfly Garden Host Plant TourPrairie ironweed & American Lady

Holden Arboretum

Adult - Beginner, Adult - Intermediate

Prairie ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata) is a staple meadow plant, growing tall and blooming in late summer and fall.

It is self-seeding as seeds fall to the ground at the end of the season only to germinate and begin their journey growing up in the spring. Butterflies are very attracted to their flowers. This native plant grows exceptionally well in an organized garden setting.

The American lady butterfly is a widespread species that uses ironweed and slew of other plants in the sunflower family as hosts. They lay their eggs singly on the surface of an ironweed leaf. When caterpillars are hatched, they are solitary and spend all their time munching on leaves.

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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