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Larval Shrubs and Trees

We tend to forget that trees and shrubs are needed as larval or host plants for many pollinators and butterflies.  Unfortunately, the loss or endangerment of these special trees and shrubs from the Ontario environment have caused their associated pollinator to become endangered, as well.

Swallowtail Butterflies

This is a beautiful family of butterflies that we are seeing less of.  By planting their larval shrubs and trees we can sustain these flying jewels.

Spicebush Swallowtail

The lovely spicebush swallowtail butterfly uses the Northern Spicebush as its host plant.

The Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)  is a highly neglected shrub, in the horticultural world, that should be in everyone’s backyard.  It is named after its leaves which when crushed smell very aromatic, like oranges.  It is the only larval source for the lovely spicebush caterpillar.

An unusual shrub, it is dioecious, where there are distinctly different male and female forms.  The male, in April, is covered in masses of yellow blooms that are highly fragrant.  For pollinators, this is one of the first sources of nectar and pollen after a long winter of hibernation.

The female will  produce, in the fall, beautiful glossy, red berries that are appealing to fall migrant birds.

Both male and female spicebush shrubs turn a beautiful soft gold in the fall.

Pipevine Swallowtail

The pipevine swallowtail butterfly only uses the native vine, pipevine, as its larval plant.

The pipevine, Aristolochia macrophylla, is a beautiful native vine with large heart shaped leaves.  It is a vigorous growing, woody vine and reaches heights of 20 – 30 feet in sunny to partial shady areas.  It requires no maintenance and adapts to many soil types.

The flowers of the vine appear in June and are interestingly shaped ‘pipes’.

Zebra Swallowtail

The rarest and most exotic looking of our native swallowtails for Ontario.

The caterpillars feast on the paw paw tree.  Since this tree is quite rare in the environment so is the caterpillar.

Giant Swallowtail

This is our largest native butterfly for North America.  Please be sure to read our article on this butterfly to ensure planting and creating habitat for its breeding requirements.

The Hop tree (Ptelea trifoliata), which is endangered, and the Common Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) are the only 2 larval plants for this magnificent butterfly.  These trees are becoming more and more scarce in our landscape.

The prickly ash, is not an ash tree, so it will not be affected by the emerald ash borer.  It is thorny so beware.  It has an aromatic smell of oranges when the berries are rubbed.

The Hop tree is quite a lovely tall shrub, or small tree.  Please visit our article on both the hop and prickly ash for full planting details.

The interesting fruit of the Hop tree.  A papery disc.

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