Activities & Experiments

Butterfly Garden Host Plant TourSweetbay Magnolia & Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Holden Arboretum

Adult - Beginner, Adult - Intermediate

Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is an elegant, small magnolia.

It’s creamy white flowers bloom in late spring here in Northern Ohio and put on a show that delights your senses of sight and smell. It’s clusters of red fruit attract wildlife in the summer and fall.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, one of Ohio’s most commonly seen and recognized butterfly, uses sweetbay magnolia and a handful of other plants and trees as host plants. Some scientific research suggests that butterflies might use a variety of host plants to “balance the conflicting needs” of male and female larvae, proposing the idea that each plant might offer a different suite of nutrients to different caterpillars.

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

Look for sweetbay magnolia around the Blueberry Pond Loop trail.

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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