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An Easy Butterfly Gardener’s Guide to Burlington, VT Swallowtails and their Host Plants

Table of Contents for Swallowtail Butterflies and Host Plants in Burlington, VT

Burlington, Vermont is located in the northwestern part of the state of Vermont in the United States. The center of Burlington is in USDA Plant hardiness zone 5, while to the east is zone 4. In the Burlington area, there are six species of Swallowtail butterflies that you can host in your butterfly garden.

Location of the Burlington, Vermont Area

Burlington, Vermont metro area in the state of Vermont.
Burlington, Vermont Metro Area — User:Nyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Burlington, Vermont metro area covers Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Burlington, Vermont

Vermont USDA hardiness zone map.
Vermont Plant Hardiness Zones — USDA Public Domain

Burlington, Vermont is located in the Lake Champlain valley in Zone 5. To the east, is the Green Mountains and zone 4. When selecting plants you will want to get those that can handle temperatures as cold as -25F to be sure they will survive.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) and its host plants in Burlington, Vermont

Eggs of pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) on a plant.
Eggs of Pipevine Swallowtail — Insects Unlocked, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Caterpillar of the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) on the ground.
Caterpillar of Pipevine Swallowtail — Insects Unlocked, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) on a yellow goldenrod plant.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, Wikimedia Commons
Brown chrysalis of pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor) on a twig.
Brown chrysalis of pipevine swallowtail — Meganmccarty, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The pipevine swallowtail flies throughout the United States, except for the Pacific Northwest. It has orange-brown eggs that are laid on the host plant. The black to brown to red caterpillar with orange markings comes out in the spring. They then overwinter as a pupa (Monroe and Wright 2017).

In the spring and into the summer the adult butterflies start to fly. They have a wingspan of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) to 5 inches (12.7 cm) inches and are black colored with white markings and have a greenish reflection.

Plants that Host the Pipevine Swallowtail

The pipevine swallowtail is generally hosted by members of the birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae). In the Burlington, VT area these include:

  • Pipevine (Isotrema macrophyllum): As the name would suggest this is the main host plant and a vine.
  • Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense): a herbaceous plant.
Vegetative pipevine (Isotrema macrophyllum) on the ground.
Pipevine (Isotrema macrophyllum) — Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brown flower of wild ginger (Asarum canadense).
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) — English: NPS Staff, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Canadian Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) and its host plants in Burlington, Vermont

Brown caterpillar of canadian swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) on log.
Brown Caterpillar of Canadian Swallowtail — Sherby71, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green caterpillar of canadian Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis).
Caterpillar of Canadian Swallowtail — Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult Canadian Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) on a leaf.
Canadian Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) — Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult canadian swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) with folded wings.
Canadian Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Canadian Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)

The canadian swallowtail flies through the northeast and northern tier of the United States including Alaska and Canada. It has orange-brown eggs that are laid on the host plant. The caterpillar is brown at first to look like a bird dropping and then turns green later. The pupa then overwinters to emerge in the spring.

In the spring the adult butterflies start to fly. They have a wingspan of 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) to 3 inches (7.6 cm) inches and are yellow with black striped markings. It differs in coloration from the eastern tiger swallowtail in that the black stripes are not continuous to the bottom.

Plants that Host the Canadian Swallowtail

The canadian swallowtail, like the tiger swallowtails, are generalists. They use members of a number of genera as hosts, primarily from members of the Birch Family (Betulaceae), Rose Family (Rosaceae), Willow Family (Salicaceae), and the Maple Family (Aceraceae). In the Burlington, VT area these include:

  • Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina): a tree
  • Cultivated Apple (Malus pumila): a introduced tree
  • Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides): a tree
  • Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) a tree
  • White Ash (Fraxinus americana): a tree
White flowers of wild black cherry (Prunus serotina).
Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) — Author Image
Serrated leaves of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis).
Leaves of Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis) — Salicyna, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Giant Swallowtail (Papilo cresphontes) and its host plants in Burlington, Vermont

Yellow of egg of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on a green leaf.
Egg of Giant Swallowtail — Anne Toal from US, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brownish-black caterpillar of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on a leaf.
Caterpillar of Giant Swallowtail — Aaron Carlson from Menomonie, WI, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wkimedia Commons
Brown chrysalis of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) attached to a leaf.
Brown chrysalis of Giant Swallowtail — Ianaré Sévi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult of giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) butterfly on vegetation.
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) — ALAN SCHMIERER, CC0, via Wkimedia Commons

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The giant swallowtail flies throughout the United States and southeast Canada, except for the northwest. Beyond North America it ranges into Central America and the Caribbean Islands. It is the largest butterfly in North America (Wikipedia). It has brownish-orange eggs that are laid on the host plants. The caterpillars have five stages or instars before pupating, which takes about two weeks. The adult butterflies have a wingspans ranging from about 5.5 inches (14 cm) to 7.5 inches (19.1 cm) and are black and yellow colored.

Plants that Host the Giant Swallowtail

The giant swallowtail is hosted by members of the Rutaceae, of which there are three primary plants in the Burlington area. These include:

  • Toothache tree (Zanthoxylum americanum) — a small to medium sized tree
  • Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) — a rare small tree in Pennsylvania
  • Common Rue (Ruta graveolens) — a herbaceous plant
Common rue (Ruta graveolens) in a garden.
Common Rue (Ruta graveolens) — Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Yellow flowers of hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) in a wooded area.
Common Hoptree (Ptelea trifoliata) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) and its host plants in Burlington, Vermont

Green egg of eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) on a green leaf.
Egg of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) — USFWS, Public domain, via WIkimedia Commons
Brown caterpillar of eastern tiger swallowtail on green leaf.
Brown Caterpillar of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — Jim Conrad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Green caterpillar of eastern tiger swallowtail on green leaf.
Green Caterpillar of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — Jacy Lucier, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Eastern tiger swallowtail on flower.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — Shenandoah National Park from Virginia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Black form of eastern tiger swallowtail on vegetation.
Female Black Form of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — Shenandoah National Park from Virginia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger swallowtail flies in the mid-western and eastern United States from the Rocky Mountains and east. In the Eastern US it is likely one of the most distinctive swallowtails. The light green eggs are laid on the host plants. The caterpillar has five stages; with the first three a brown color and the last two as a green color. The brown chrysalis is placed in on trunks or on fallen leaves.

The adults have a wingspan of 3 inches (7.6 cm) to 5.5 inches (14 cm) and have two color schemes. The yellow and black is the most distinctive, but the females also have a dark black phase that mimics the pipevine swallowtail (see image). Generally there are two broods in Pennsylvania (Monroe and Wright 2017).

Plants that Host the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

The eastern tiger swallowtail is a generalist and uses members of a number of genera as host plants. Some species in the Burlington area include:

  • Members of the Prunus genus (Cherries and Plums)
  • Members of the Betula genus (Birch)
  • Members of the Populus genus (Poplar and Cottonwood)
  • Members of the Fraxinus genus (Ash)
Close-up of white flowers of wild black cherry (Prunus serotina).
Flowers of Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) — Author Image
Leaves of white ash (Fraxinus americana) in an arboretum.
White Ash (Fraxinus americana) — Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) and its host plants in Burlington, Vermont

Black and white caterpillar of black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) on vegetation.
Black and White Caterpillar of Black Swallowtail — Inklet Arts, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green and yellow caterpillar of black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).
Caterpillar of Black Swallowtail — NCBioTeacher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Greenish-brown chrysalis of black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).
Chrysalis of Black Swallowtail — Photo by and (c)2009 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man), GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons
Black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) on fence.
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) — Kaldari, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The black swallowtail flies in most of the United States, except for the Northwest. The yellow eggs are laid on the host plants and take about a week to hatch. The caterpillars are at first black colored but later have green, black, and yellow coloring and last from a week to a month. The butterflies then survive the winter as a chrysalis.

The adults have a wingspan of 2.5 (6.4 cm) to 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) and are black colored with yellow spots along the wings and a red eyepsot near the tail on the top. The underside has orange spots. The black swallowtail has two broods in Vermont from May to August (Grehan and Linnane 1996).

Plants that Host the Black Swallowtail

Members of the Apiaceae (Carrot Family)

The black swallowtail is a generalist and uses members of the carrot family as host plants. Some examples of carrot family members in Burlington include:

  • Purple-stem Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea): a herbaceous plant
  • Spotted Water-Hemlock (Cicuta maculata): a herbaceous plant
  • Canadian Honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis): a herbaceous plant
  • Hairy Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytonii): a herbaceous plant
  • Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis): a herbaceous plant
  • Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa): an introduced herbaceous plant
  • Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea): a herbaceous plant
Plant of purple-stem angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) in a wooded area.
Purple-Stem Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) — Laval University, via Wikimedia Commons
Golden alexander (Zizia aurea) in a wooded setting.
Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) — Cbaile19, CC0

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilo troilus) and its host plants in Burlington, Vermont

Green caterpillar of spicebush swallowtail (Paplio troilus) on a twig.
Caterpillar of Spicebush Swallowtail — NCBioTeacher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Light brown chrysalis of spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus).
Chrysalis of Spicebush Swallowtail — Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) on vegetation.
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) — Kaldari, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The spicebush swallowtail flies in the mid-western and eastern United States. The greenish eggs are laid on the leaves of spicebush. The caterpillars are brown at first but then turn yellow. The chrysalis is attached to leaves on the ground.

The adults have a wingspan of 3 inches (7.6 cm) to 4 inches (10.2 cm) and are black with white spots along the bottom and a red eyespot on the bottom middle.

Plants that Host the Spicebush Swallowtail

As the common name would suggest, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail as is the sassafras (Sassafras albidum), both of which are members of the Laurel Family (Lauraceae). Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) reaches the northern limit of its range in Burlington and is a rare species in Vermont. The spicebush swallowtail only feeds on members of the Lauraceae (Scriber et al 2008).

Shrub of spicebush (Lindera benzoin) in a park.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) — Dan Keck from Ohio, CC0

Nectar Plants to Consider Putting in Your Garden

Plant of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) with yellow flowers.
Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod — Solidago rugosa Mill. observed in United States of America by Steve Plumb (licensed under CC0)

While the swallowtails need certain species of plants to use as hosts, the adults also need nectar plants to visit in order get nourishment. Nectar plants can also help other insects such as bees. Some common nectar plants that can be grown in the Burlington, VT area include:

  • Goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
  • Joe-Pye-Weeds (Eutrochium spp.)
  • Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) — Also benefit the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
  • Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)
  • Coneflowers (Rudbeckia spp.)

Frequently Asked Questions

How much land do I need to start a butterfly garden?

Every plant that you can grow can make a difference for visitors to your garden, especially in urban areas. Potted plants are also useful en masse for pollinators. When planting your garden, make sure you plant both the host plants and nectar plants for the adults to feed on.

Where should I get my plants?

For pollinators, it is best to have native plant species. The insects will be used to these plants more than ones from other places. Be sure you get your plants from a reputable nursery does not use neocontinids that would harm visitors to your garden.

Are there gardens near me, where I can see an example of a butterfly garden?

There are no specific butterfly gardens in the Burlington area. However there are several other gardens around the state to visit.

Books where you can find out more about Butterfly Gardening in the Burlington, VT Area

Affiliate Disclosure: When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate programs include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Blackwell’s Books.

References

  • Grehan, John R. and James P. Linnane. 1996. Butterflies of the Green National Forest. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
  • Monroe, James L. and David M. Wright. 2017. Butterflies of Pennsylvania. (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press). 304 pp.
  • Scriber, Mark J., Michelle L. Larsen, and Myron P. Zalucki. 2008. Responses of North American Papilio troilus and P. glaucus to potential hosts from Australia. Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society 62: 18-30.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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