• ljmarkson

Native Passionflower Vine is a Popular Butterfly Host Plant

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

In Georgia, native passionflower vines (passiflora incarnata or lutea) are the only host plant for gulf fritillaries, but it’s not an exclusive relationship.

The little yellow dots on the tip of this passionflower vine are zebra longwing eggs ready to hatch into caterpillars!

Passionate Zebras Zebra longwing butterflies also lay eggs on passionflower vines. They prefer vines in shadier locations while gulf fritillaries like sunnier areas. Also, unlike gulf fritillary butterflies that lay a single egg at a time, the zebra longwing will lay her eggs in clusters on the tender parts of passionflower vine.

I was lucky enough to catch a zebra longwing laying a cluster of tiny yellow eggs on a passionflower vine.

Atlanta is in the northern range of the zebra longwing butterfly’s travels, so I only see a few in my yard every year. Most butterflies live for a month, but zebra longwings can live for months because they feast on pollen in addition to nectar. I wonder if I might be seeing the same few zebra longwings in my yard throughout the summer and think I’m seeing new ones! As global weather patterns shift, there seems to be more zebra longwings in Atlanta every year. I’ve seen zebra longwing eggs but have yet to see a zebra longwing caterpillar on my passionflower vines. The caterpillars are a pretty distinctive white with black dots and spikes. Maybe next year…

A Variegated Variation

This big squishy boy with white dots is a variegated fritillary caterpillar

Variegated fritillary butterflies also lay their eggs on passionflower vines. Their caterpillars look like the gulf fritillaries, but they have white dots on them. It's like a celebrity sighting the few times a year I'm fortunate enought to find these caterpillars on my passionflower vines.

A variegated fritillary and gulf fritillary caterpillar share the same area of a passionflower vine

There are a few other butterflies that lay eggs on a variety of native passionflower vines in other parts of America, particularly in Texas and California. I'm just sharing what I know about the ones in Atlanta.

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