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Butterflies - Spicebush Swallowtail Pictures and Plants

Updated on September 2, 2014
naturegirl7 profile image

Yvonne has been photographing and studying birds for 40+ years. She maintains bird and butterfly gardens in her Louisiana backyard habitat.

Spicebush Swallowtail on Homestead Verbena

Purple Verbena attracts many butterflies.
Purple Verbena attracts many butterflies. | Source

Beautiful Spicebush Swallowtail Butterflies

The Spicebush Swallowtail is an eastern butterfly, but it is more common down here in the south. It is often confused with the bad tasting Pipevine Swallowtail. This similarity in appearance is thought to be a survival adaptation. Male and female Spicebush Swallowtails are both beautiful, with the male having more bluish green color on its hind wings.

The caterpillars feed on members of the Laurel family (Lauraceae) which includes Spicebush, Sassafras, Camphor tree and Redbay. The adult butterflies use many flowering plants, but the favorites in our habitat seem to be Homestead Verbena, Old-fashioned Lantana, Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Jamaican Vervain and Salvia.

We have taken many pictures of both the Spicebush Swallowtail and the flowers that it visits. We hope you enjoy this article and that it helps you to attract the lovely Spicebush Swallowtail to your garden.

Telling the Black Swallowtails Apart

The white arrow shows the key identification marks on Spicebush Swallowtails.
The white arrow shows the key identification marks on Spicebush Swallowtails. | Source

Identifying a Spicebush Swallowtail

There are some key points in identifying a Spicebush Swallowtail and telling it apart from the many other black swallowtail butterflies, especially the Pipevine. As you can see in the picture, Spicebush swallowtails have a prominent greenish blue triangular spot on the hind wings and two rows of orange spots. The Pipevine Swallowtail only has one row of orange spots and no greenish blue triangular spot.

Pictures of Spicebush Larval Food Plants

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The flowers of the Sassafras tree.Spicebush caterpillars often fold over a leaf with silk to form a shelter. It stays there when it is not eating.Evidence of caterpillars on Sassafras leaves.Camphor Tree, Cinnamomum camphora is native to Japan, China and Malaysia.Red Bay, Persea borbonia, is a larval food plant for both the Spicebush and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.Spicebush tree, Lindera benzoin, has attractive red berries and scented foliage.
The flowers of the Sassafras tree.
The flowers of the Sassafras tree. | Source
Spicebush caterpillars often fold over a leaf with silk to form a shelter. It stays there when it is not eating.
Spicebush caterpillars often fold over a leaf with silk to form a shelter. It stays there when it is not eating. | Source
Evidence of caterpillars on Sassafras leaves.
Evidence of caterpillars on Sassafras leaves. | Source
Camphor Tree, Cinnamomum camphora is native to Japan, China and Malaysia.
Camphor Tree, Cinnamomum camphora is native to Japan, China and Malaysia. | Source
Red Bay, Persea borbonia, is a larval food plant for both the Spicebush and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.
Red Bay, Persea borbonia, is a larval food plant for both the Spicebush and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. | Source
Spicebush tree, Lindera benzoin, has attractive red berries and scented foliage.
Spicebush tree, Lindera benzoin, has attractive red berries and scented foliage. | Source

Spicebush Larval Food Plants

The best and most effective way to attract the Spicebush Swallowtail (and other butterflies) to your garden or yard is to plant as many of their larval food plants as possible. Some of the most used food plants of the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar are:

Spicebush, Lindera Benzoin
Common Spice Bush is also called Benjamin Bush, Spice Wood, Fever Bush, Snap Bush and Wild Allspice. This native tree or shrub grows to about 20 feet tall. The small, sweet smelling, yellowish flowers bloom before the leaves appear in spring. The shiny, red or sometimes yellow drupes are eaten by 24 species of birds. Rabbit and white-tailed deer nibble the leaves. It grows in moist or moderately moist soils.


Sassafras albidum
Sassafras also goes by the names, Ague Tree, Saxifrax Tree, White Sassafras, Sassafac, Cinnamon Wood, Smelling Stick, Saloop and Gumbo File. This native dioecious (male and female plants) tree can grow to 90 feet. All parts of the tree are aromatic and most have been used in herbal medicine or are eaten. In fall the leaves are harvested and dried to make "file", an ingredient in Cajun gumbo. The small greenish yellow flowers appear before the leaves come out in March or April in Louisiana. The black drupes and leaves are eaten by 28 species of birds as well as wild turkey, raccoons and squirrels. White-tailed deer, marsh rabbit and black bear eat the twigs. It does well in well drained soil and open areas.


Camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora
Camphor tree is a native of Japan, China and Malaya. It has escaped cultivation and is now growing in many southern Louisiana parishes. Camphor tree grows to about 40 feet tall. Its wood is used to make commercial camphor.


Redbay, Persea borbonia and Swamp Red Bay, Persea palustris
There are many common names for these useful members of the Laurel family. They are called, Red Bay, Swamp Bay, Swamp Sweet Bay, Sweet Bay, Florida Mahogany, Tiss Wood, Isabella Wood, Silk Bay, Red Bay Persea and Laurel Tree. They are relatives of the Bay Laurel, bay leaves are used to season food. The leaves of the Red Bay can also be used as an herb.

Persea borbonia grows in sandy soil along the coast, while Persea palustris grows in moist areas and in baygalls in the pine regions of Louisiana.

Other members of the Laurel family (Lauraceae) are also used by spicebush swallowtails.

Spicebush on Coral Nymph Salvia coccinea

Salvia coccinea and other salvias provide rich nectar and is used by hummingbirds and butterflies.
Salvia coccinea and other salvias provide rich nectar and is used by hummingbirds and butterflies. | Source

Butterfly Nectar Plants

All types of Buddleia, like this Buddleia lindleyana, will attract many butterflies to the garden.
All types of Buddleia, like this Buddleia lindleyana, will attract many butterflies to the garden. | Source
Homestead verbena is a "must have" in the butterfly garden.
Homestead verbena is a "must have" in the butterfly garden. | Source
Ham and Eggs and Butter and Eggs Lantana attract many different kinds of butterflies and birds.
Ham and Eggs and Butter and Eggs Lantana attract many different kinds of butterflies and birds. | Source
Mexican Firebush, Hamelia patens is a butterfly and hummingbird favorite.
Mexican Firebush, Hamelia patens is a butterfly and hummingbird favorite. | Source
Tropical Butterfly Weed Milkweed flowers are used by a variety of butterflies.  It is the host plant of Monarch butterflies.
Tropical Butterfly Weed Milkweed flowers are used by a variety of butterflies. It is the host plant of Monarch butterflies. | Source

Good Nectar Plants

Flowering plants, rich in nectar are what the adults will use to sustain their life. These flowers also help to lighten the spirit of the human inhabitants. Most of these favorite butterfly plants require full sun to part shade. Shining or Lindley Butterfly Bush, a weeping Buddleia, is an exception. It actually prefers part shade with some morning sun. You will attract more butterflies if you have large stands of nectar-rich flowers.

Here is a short list of some of my favorite nectar plants.

  • Salvia coccinea and other Salvia species
  • Lindley (Buddleia lindleyana) and Other Butterfly Bushes, Buddleia spp.
  • Homestead Purple Verbena
  • Lantana spp.
  • Butterfly Weed Milkweed, Asclepias spp.
  • Jamaican Vervain,
  • Mexican Fire Bush, Hamelia patens
  • Petunias
  • Morning Glory, Ipomoea spp.
  • Zinnas

Nectar Plants

Black Knight Butterfly Bush - Buddleia - Oldtimer/Hardy - 4" Pot
Black Knight Butterfly Bush - Buddleia - Oldtimer/Hardy - 4" Pot

This old-fashioned shrub is a butterfly magnet.

 

Black Swallowtail Emerging from Cocoon

Stokes Butterfly Book

Butterfly Poll

Do you plant to attract butterflies and moths to your yard?

See results

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly on Ham and Eggs Lantana flowers.
Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly on Ham and Eggs Lantana flowers. | Source

Butterfly Guide Books

© 2011 Yvonne L. B.

Please leave a comment.

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    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Washington

      Oh my goodness - fantastic hub and fantastic pictures! I absolutely love butterflies and birds...and dogs...and animals and life in general so you hit all the points for me!

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 6 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Wow! Very informative and AWESOME pictures!

    • kat11 profile image

      kat11 6 years ago from Illinois

      Butterflies are beautiful creatures. The videos and photos really made the hub special. Thanks for the information.

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Great information for butterfly lovers.

    • naturegirl7 profile image
      Author

      Yvonne L. B. 6 years ago from South Louisiana

      NotTooTall,

      Thanks for the comment. That's a good, quick way to tell a butterfly from a moth. The hairy antennae on moths is another good ID.

    • NotTooTall profile image

      NotTooTall 6 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi Naturegirl7,

      Nice Hub on butterflies! I enjoyed reading it and viewing your photos.

      My friend observed me reading this and asked me, "How can you tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth".

      Since some moths are quite colorful, I could undestand her confusion.

      I told her my cheat on this . . . (when they land) . . . Butterflies ~ Wings to the sky and Moths ~ Flat like a tablecloth!

      Thank you for the 'Useful' Hub!

      N T T

    • SJKSJK profile image

      SJKSJK 6 years ago from delray beach, florida

      It is quite fascinating to watch butterflies.

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