Get a jump-start on your butterfly garden and landscaping by planting our favorite fast-growing trees that butterflies love. As the saying goes, ‘the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.’
The first tree on our list is the Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). This native eastern hardwood grows tall and straight with beautiful orange and yellow flowers along with unique-shaped leaves that provide ample shade.
The second tree on our list is the Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). This native tree displays beautiful white fragrant flowers, making it a lovely focal point near a patio.
We recommend these two trees for another reason. They are both the host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. That means your yard will not only attract the female but the large yellow and black-striped male butterfly as well, adding even more color to your newly landscaped yard.
And speaking of host plants, the American Pawpaw Tree (Asimina triloba), the third tree on our list, is also a butterfly host plant. This small, tropical-looking native is the only host plant for the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly, another large swallowtail with a graceful flight and distinctive colors. The Pawpaw tree is considered an understory tree, but it grows to a very pleasing shape in full sun. It also produces an edible fruit featured in various cookbooks.
Additional host trees include Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – host plant for Spicebush Swallowtail, Common Hop Tree, aka Wafer Ash (Ptelea trifoliata) – host plant for the Giant Swallowtail, and Elm Tree (Ulmus spp.) – host plant for the Question Mark, Eastern Comma, and others.
As Doug Tallamy points out in his book, ‘Bringing Nature Home’ (available on Amazon), one of the most prolific food sources for a wide range of butterflies and moths (and therefore birds) is the stately White Oak Tree (Quercus alba).
Not only do trees benefit the environment, but they also add shade, ambiance, and structure to landscaping. They also provide more opportunities for nature’s biodiversity, enhancing our garden’s enjoyment.