Attract the Spicebush Swallowtail to your butterfly garden by planting the best caterpillar hosts plants. It took about a year after planting a Red Bay tree for me to spot a lovely Spicebush Swallowtail in my yard.
Of course it could have been my imagination, but I got the feeling the Spicebush Swallowtail was a little shy because when I got up close to take photos of the Spicebush Swallowtail, he flew from the Sapphire Showers nectar plant to the Red Bay tree, sort of hiding behind the leaves of the Red Bay Tree.
Spicebush Swallowtails have a wingspan of 3.5 to 5 inches. Some people call them the green clouded swallowtails because the hind wings of male Spicebush Swallowtail has green colorings.
Spicebush Swallowtails are found in the eastern United States and the mid-western United States. Since they are attracted to puddles, create a few wet spots for them in your yard.
If you want a certain butterfly, it’s best to plant at least one host plant as well as a few nectar plants. You will know you have the right butterfly because a butterfly will almost always linger around its host plant at one point even if it’s drawn to several different nectar plants. The host plant is like a childhood home to a butterfly.
Here are some of the best host plants for the Spicebush Swallowtail larvae or caterpillars:
No. 1: Do Plant: The Spicebush Plant (Lindera Benzoin). Also called the Northern spicebush, the spicebush plant is a shrub that grows to be 6 to 12 feet tall with glossy leaves which turn golden yellow in the autumn. With the spicebush plant’s early spring flowering, some people call it the forsythia of the wild.
No. 2: Do Plant: Sassafras Tree (Sassafras albidum). Sassafras can grow as a tree or shrub. As a tree it can reach 60 feet. Sassafras is sort of “sassy” in that it releases a allelopathic to competitor plants such as the American Elm so the Sassafras may grow unhindered.
No. 3: Don’t Plant: Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora). The Camphor tree is an evergreen that can grow 50 to 150 feet tall. It has shiny foliage with oval leaves with three distinct yellow veins. The Camphor tree is from the laurel family. It does not like wet soil but can handle drought once established. It is listed by the Plant Conservation Alliance as an Alien Invader, Category I invasive exotic species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.
No. 4: Do Plant: Redbay tree (Persea borbonia). The Red bay tree is also from the laurel family. It is an evergreen tree that can reach 65 feet tall. Unfortunately, the Red bay trees are threatened by the introduction of the red bay ambrosia beetle that spreads laurel wilt. Red bay trees can thrive in light shade. The leaves of the Red Bay may also be used for cooking in stews.
Do plant: Some of the suggested nectar plants to draw the Spicebush Swallowtail to your butterfly garden include: butterfly bush, butterfly weed, milkweed, Sapphire Showers, honeysuckle such as Coral honeysuckle, thistle, lantana such as banana lantana and purple trailing lantana, Elegant zinnia, purple coneflower and azalea.
I loved having the Spicebush Swallowtail visit my butterfly gardens. It’s always exciting to have a variety of beautiful butterflies grace your yard.
Related gardening articles:
Pink butterfly gardens
Red Admiral butterfly
old-fashioned tall red pentas
Florida Butterfly Gardening website