www.outdoors.chicago.il.us >> The Unofficial Cook County Forest Preserve District Page >>
Prepared by: Sand Ridge Nature Center
15890 Paxton Ave.. South Holland. Illinois 60473. (708) 868-0606
Approximately 100 species of butterflies occur in Cook County. Loss of habitat due to the constant development of open lands affects all types of wildlife, including insects. Many butterflies have very specific needs. It would be almost impossible to recreate an entire habitat, but by planting gardens to meet these unique needs, we can supplement natural areas for feeding and reproducing.
A butterfly garden should provide a good source of nectar for adult butterflies, food for the larval or caterpillar stage, and provide a beautiful place to observe and enjoy butterflies.
Most adult butterflies feed on the nectar of many different flowers, while some.have favorites they will frequent. The following list of nectar flowers chosen based on the suggestions of experts, availability and the constraints of the local growing season.
The larva of some butterflies feed only on certain plants. Planting as many of these specific plants as possible provides the opportunity to observe different species of butterflies in the different stages of their life cycle. For example, the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly feeds exclusively on plants of the milkweed familY. By planting butterfly weed, a beautiful orange flowered milkweed, it is possible that monarch butterflies will visit your garden to lay eggs on these plants.
When the eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars, they will feed on the leaves until they are full grown. At that time, they will crawl away and attach themselves to a protected spot where they will begin a miraculous change. When their skin is shed for the last time, a beautiful pale green chrysalis is exposed. Within this chrysalis the change from caterpillar to butterfly will occur. In about two weeks the adult butterfly will emerge, mate and lay eggs, completing the cycle.
If you would like to design a butterfly garden of your own, these are a few important things to keep in mind.
The following is a list of butterflies found in Cook County and some of the plants ,on which their caterpillars feed. These butterflies are common locally and may be seen in appropriate habitats.
|Monarch||Milkweed family including butterfly weed*|
|Fritillaries||Common wood violets*, pansies* and violas*|
|Buckeye||Plantain, figwort, vervain and snapdragon*|
|Red Spotted Purple||Willows, poplars, aspens, cherries, hawthorns, apples, and hornbeams|
|Painted Lady||Daisies*, hollyhocks*, thistles, and mallows|
|Common Sulfur||Clovers* and other legumes|
|Eastern Black Swallowtail||Dill*, parsley, carrots and Queen Ann's Lace|
|Eastern Tailed Blue||A variety of legumes including beans, peas, clovers and sweet peas|
|Mourning Cloak||Locust, willow, elm, hackberry and cottonwood|
|Comma||Hops, nettles, and elms|
|Question Mark||Hackberry, nettles, elms, and related trees|
|Tiger Swallowtail||A wide variety of trees including willows, cottonwoods, birches, ashes, and cherries|
|Viceroy||Willows, apples, poplars, aspens, cherries, and plums|
|Hackberry||Hackberry trees only|
|Silver-spotted Skipper||Wisteria, locusts, beggar's tick, beans, and licorice|
|Red Admiral||Nettles (don't plant in garden)|
|American Copper||Curly dock and sheep sorrel|
|Spicebush Swallowtail||Sassafras and spicebush|
The plants that are starred (*) are easily cultivated and have been successful in the butterfly garden at Forest Preserve District's Sand Ridge Nature Center.
A garden is a constantly evolving production, so there will always be surprises and disappointments. Different soils and garden conditions will impact choices made in individual gardens. Good Luck in your ventures into butterfly gardening.
There are a few plants which the Illinois Department of Conservation request that we DO NOT plant. These plants are undesirable due to their detrimental effect on native habitats. These are:
This page is based on a publication of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois, adapted for the web as a public service by CLONK. This web site is unofficial, and not associated in any way with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. CLONK is not responsible for any errors, either in the original publication or in this web version. The information presented here follows the original Forest Preserve District publication as closely as possible, with minor variations such as choice of typeface and added web links. CLONK cautions that items such as names of public servants and telephone numbers are subject to change!
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