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  • Writer's pictureJessica Morgan McAtee

Top 5 Florida Butterflies

Updated: Jan 7

After having a butterfly garden in Florida for over 20 years, I have observed that certain butterflies are more common than others. For this reason, I have named the top five Florida butterflies. All five of them live all across the state, down the peninsula, into the panhandle and even up to Jacksonville. These butterflies can be seen year round, as long as it is warm enough. You will see them regularly as long as you plant their host plants!

  1. Monarch! You probably guessed that Monarchs are one of the top five Florida butterflies. The amazing thing about Florida Monarchs is that we have some non-migrating populations that live in our peninsula year round! So, while these butterflies are a seasonal treat for northerners, they are a staple down south. Their host plant is Milkweed, and there are various species you can plant. Find one in a nursery near you and watch the Monarchs soar.

Monarchs are one of the top five Florida butterflies and they host on milkweed.

2. Zebra Longwing! These southern beauties can't be found in the northern US. They are our state butterfly so they are definitely in the top five Florida butterflies! Zebra Longwings are lazy flyers who remind me of easy coastal living. Their black and yellow pattern and elongated wing shape make them easy to identify because no other kind of butterfly looks similar. To attract them to your space, plant plenty of passion vines but read the above linked article for details about which ones to use.

Zebra Longwings are one of the top five Florida butterflies and they lay eggs on passion vines.

3. Gulf Fritillary! You get a double bang for your plant when you incorporate passion vines in your garden (which you do for the previous butterfly) because prolific Gulf Fritillaries will also host on them. These fancy butterflies flash glitter on their underside with their pearly wing designs. They seem to be as common as palm trees in Gulf states, which is why they made the cut for the top five Florida butterflies.

This Gulf Fritillary is one of the top five FL butterflies and it hosts on passion vines.

4. Orange-barred Sulphur! Sulphur is a general term for all of those fast flying yellow butterflies. On wing, they are like dancing bursts of sunshine. This is one of the largest of the Florida Sulphurs and that's why it made the list of top five Florida butterflies. To attract this zippy delight, incorporate cassia species of plants in the pea family. Candlestick cassia, desert cassia, Christmas senna and others will work.

Orange-barred sulphurs are one of the top five Florida butterflies and they host on senna or cassia plants.

5. Cassius Blue! This stunning butterfly gets overlooked because it is easy to miss. It is only about the size of a dime. Yet, it is everywhere for those who are looking, and that is why it is in my top five Florida butterflies. It hosts on plumbago, as in the blue-flowered shrub everyone landscapes with. Next time it is warm and sunny, go up to a plumbago and you are likely to see one of these flying nearby.

Dainty Cassius Blue butterflies are in Florida's top five and they host on plumbago.

After you have incorporated the host plants for caterpillars, be sure to add some nectar sources to your landscape. Here are some great Florida natives. This is what the butterflies will drink from after they grow their wings.

Those of us who live in the south are so lucky to have butterflies galore, thanks to our warm weather, constant growth season and year-round sunshine. Creating a garden patch for butterflies to live in is a fantastic way to add flare to your garden and joy to your days, plus, it just makes you a better person. If you are interested in filling your landscape with more butterfly attracting plants, please check out my books.

Happy Southern Gardening!

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