Is Your Pipevine Plant Swallowtail-safe?
There are many types of Aristolochia you can plant to entice pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor) to host their caterpillar babies in your garden.
However, tropical pipevine plants are too toxic for pipevine swallowtails. Some gardeners choose the exotic tropical varieties for their showy flowers, but this can be counter-productive to a thriving butterfly garden.
What’s unfortunate about Aristolochia gigantea (giant Dutchman’s pipe), is that pipevine butterflies will still lay eggs on it. The eggs will hatch, but many of the caterpillars won’t survive past their first instar due to high plant toxicity or refusal to eat the distasteful leaves.
So, if you’re interested in adding a pipevine host plant to your garden try one of these swallowtail-safe species instead.
Click on any of the bold orange links to buy seeds or plants:
Pipevine Swallowtail Host Plants
1. Aristolochia durior or macrophylla (big leaf pipevine) – native to the eastern US and recommended for USDA hardiness zones 4a-8b.
native region US: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia
native region Canada: Ontario, Quebec
2. Aristolochia tomentosa (woolly pipevine) – native to the southeastern and central US. Recommended for USDA hardiness zones 5-10.
native region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas
3. Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia snakeroot) – native to the eastern US and recommended for USDA hardiness zones 5a-8b. This species grows lower to the ground, earning its serpenty name.
native region US: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia
4. Aristolochia californica (California pipevine) – native to California. This climber also spreads like a ground cover. Recommended for USDA hardiness zones 8a-10b.)
5. Aristolochia fimbriata (white-veined Dutchman’s pipe) – a trailing plant with pretty foliage and easy to manage in the garden. USDA hardiness zones 7a-9b.)
Also a host plant for Polydamas (gold rim) swallowtails
6. Aristolochia trilobata (Dutchman’s Pipe) – unique colorful flowers, cold hardy to zone 10a.
Also a host plant for Polydomas (gold rim) swallowtails
7. Aristolochia clematitis (birthwort) – a rare, creeping vine with yellow flowers. Recommended for USDA hardiness zones 6b-9b.)
8. Aristolochia watsonii (desert pipevine) – a low grower that could be an option for a hanging basket. Recommended for USDA hardiness zones above 9a.
These 8 aristolochia options should nourish your pipevine caterpillars all the way to butterhood. Please research specific plants to make sure they’re a viable option for your region. #1 and #2 are perennial options for much of North America. Others can be grown as annuals.
If you’re interested in providing host plants for a wide range of butterflies, check out this extensive host plant list from Houzz.
nature note: the Polydamas swallowtail (Battus polydamas) can successfully be hosted on Aristolochia gigantea. Polydamas butterflies rarely go north of Texas and Florida.