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An Easy Butterfly Gardener’s Guide to Sydney, NSW Swallowtails

Table of Contents for Sydney, NSW Swallowtail Butterflies

Sydney is the capital city of the state of New South Wales in Australia. The city is located in the east central part of the state in southeast Australia. Along the immediate coast, Sydney is located in Australian Plant Hardiness Zone 4, which is roughly equivalent to USDA Zone 10 (Dawson 1991). Away from the coast it is in Australian Plant Hardiness Zone 3, which is roughly equivalent to USDA Zone 9-10 (Dawson 1991). In the Sydney area, there are eight species of Swallowtail butterflies that you can host in your garden.

Location of the Sydney, New South Wales Metro Area

Map of Australia showing major cities.
Map of Australia — Chuq at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Sydney area covers is located in the state of New South Wales in southeastern Australia.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Sydney, New South Wales

Map of Australia Climate Zones from Bureau of Meteorology.
Government of Australia — CC BY 4.0

Sydney has warm summers and cold winters. It is roughly in zones 9-10 of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. When selecting plants you will want to get those that can handle temperatures as cold as -5C to be sure they will survive.

Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Brown chrysalis of clearwing swallowtail (Cressida cressida) on branch.
Cressida cressida (Fabricius, 1775) observed in Australia by Claudia Schipp (licensed under CC0 1.0)
Clearwing swallowtail (Cressida cressida) on vegetation.
Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida) — Richard Fuller, CC0
Clearwing swallowtail (Cressida cressida) on white flower.
Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida) — Rolf Lawrenz, CC BY 4.0

Clearwing Swallowtail (Cressida cressida)

The clearwing swallowtail flies near the coastal areas of eastern and northern Australia, New Guinea, Timor, and Maluku (Wikipedia – Cressida cressida). The orange eggs are laid on the host plant (Kitching and Zalucki 1982). The brown and white caterpillar comes out in the spring.

The adults have a wingspan of 7 cm to 8 cm and are black and red colored with clear brownish wings. The range of this species is centered to the north in Queensland and only occassionally strays south into the Sydney area.

Plants that Host the Clearwing Swallowtail

The clearwing swallowtail is hosted by members of the birthwort family (Aristolochiaceae). One is nearby to the Sydney area to the north.

  • Richmond Birdwing butterfly vine (Aristolochia praevenosa): a woody vine
Richmond birdwing butterfly vine (Aristolochia praevenosa) in a wooded setting.
Richmond Birdwing Vine (Aristolochia praevenosa) — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, CC0

Blue Triangle (Graphium sarpedon choredon) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Blue triangle (Graphium choredon) on vegetation.
Blue Triangle Butterfly (Graphium choredon) — CSIRO, CC BY 3.0
Blue triangle butterfly (Graphium choredon) on a leaf.
Blue Triangle Butterfly (Graphum choredon) — CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Blue Triangle (Graphium sarpedon choredon)

The blue triangle flies in south and southeast Asia and Australia . The yellow eggs are laid singly on the leaves of the host plant. The caterpillars have two color variations, first black and then later stages are green. The chrysalis is green (Wikipedia).

The adult has a green to yellowish-green color and a wingspan of 3.8 cm to 4.2 cm (Page and Treadway 2013).

Plants that Host the Blue Triangle

The blue triangle uses members of the Laurel Family (Lauraceae) as host plants. In the Sydney area, some of the species utilized include:

  • Blush Walnut (Beilschmiedia obtusifolia): a tree (Smithers 1978)
  • Bolly-laurel (Cryptocarya glaucescens): an evergeen tree
  • Murrogon (Cryptocarya microneura): an evergreen tree
  • Pepperberry-tree (Cryptocarya obovata): an evergreen tree
  • Three-veined laurel (Cryptocarya triplinervis): an evergreen tree
  • Bollywood (Litsea glutinosa): a tree
  • Brown bolly gum (Litsea leefeana): a tree
  • White bolly gum (Neolitsea dealbata): a shrub to tree
  • Avocado (Persea americana): an introduced fruit tree
Leaves of brown bolly gum (Litsea leefeana).
Brown Bolly Gum (Litsea leefeana) leaves — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Leaves of murrogon (Cryptocarya microneura) in a wooded area.
Murrogon (Cryptocarya microneura) leaves — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Black caterpillar of pale green triangle (Graphium eurypylus) on a leaf.
Black Caterpillar of Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus) — John Robert McPherson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Orange caterpillar of pale green triangle (Graphium eurypylus) on a leaf.
Orange Caterpillar of Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus) — John Robert McPherson, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pale green triangle (Graphium eurypylus) on vegetation.
Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus) — Aviceda, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Adult pale green triangle (Graphium eurypylus) with closed wings.
Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus) — Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pale Green Triangle (Graphium eurypylus)

The pale green triangle flies in south-central and southeast Asia. In the Sydney area is often a migrant from the north appearing in January to February (Smithers 1978). The yellow eggs are laid on the host plants and take about a week to hatch. The caterpillars are black colored and become green as they age. The chrysalis is generally green but can match what it is attached to (Wikipedia – Graphium eurypylus).

The adults have a wingspan of 7 cm to 8 cm and are black on the upper wing margins with green spots and have a green center. The underside has a similar pattern replaced with brown and white. The adults often emerge around November (Valentine 1994).

Plants that Host the Pale Green Triangle

The pale green triangle generally feeds on members of the Annonaceae (Custard Apple Family), but can also feeds on members of the Magnoliaceae and Sapindaceae (Wikipedia). Some examples of species in the Sydney area include:

  • Cherimoya (Annona cherimola): an introduced tree
  • Zig-zag Vine (Uvaria leichhardtii): a vine
  • Native Tamarind (Diploglottis australis): a tree
Orange fruits of zig-zag vine (Uvaria leichhardtii) in a rainforest.
Fruits of Zig-Zag Vine (Uvaria leichhardtii) — Mark Marathon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tree of tamarind (Diploglottis australis) in a rainforest.
Tamarind (Diploglottis australis) — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Macleay’s Swallowtail (Graphium macleyanus) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Macleay's swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus) with wings folded on white flower.
Macleay’s Swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus) wings folded — JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Macleay's swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus) on leaf.
Macleay’s Swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus) — CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Macleay’s Swallowtail (Graphium macleyanus)

The macleay’s swallowtail flies along the eastern coast of Australia and into Tasmania. Going north it extends into some parts of southeast Asia. It is the only swallowtail in Tasmania (Wikipedia).

The light green eggs are laid on the host plants. The caterpillar is green with white dots. The green chrysalis is placed on the underside of the leaf of a host plant (Climatewatch).

The adults have a wingspan of 5 cm to 6 cm (8 cm) and have different coloration on the upper versus lowerside of the wings. The upperside is black with green spots and a white center. The underside is green with brown having white spots. They are often encountered in the autumn and spring in eucalytus forests (Murphy 2011).

Plants that Host the Macleay’s Swallowtail

The macleay’s swallowtail is a generalist and uses members of a number of genera as host plants. Some species in Sydney area include:

  • Southern Sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum): a tree (Crosby 1998)
  • Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora): a introduced tree
  • Camphorwood (Cinnamomum oliveri): a tree
  • Members of the Daphanandra genus
  • Members of the Cryptocarya genus
  • Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras): a tree
  • Brush Pepperbush (Tasmannia insipida): a shrub
Leaves of camphorwood (Cinnamomum oliveri).
Camphorwood (Cinnamomum oliveri) leaves — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Purple fruits of brush pepperbush (Tasmannia insipida) in a rainforest.
Fruits of Brush Pepperbush (Tasmannia insipida) — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Note this species nectars on Epacris corymbiflora in Tasmania (Johnson and McQuillan 2011).

Orchard Swallowtail (Papilo aegeus) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Brown caterpillar of orchard swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) on leaf.
Brown Caterpillar of Orchard Swallowtail — Graham Wise from Brisbane, Australia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Orchard swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) butterfly caterpillar on leaf.
Green Caterpillar of Orchard Swallowtail — Donald Hobern from Copenhagen, Denmark, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Orchard swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) on vegetation.
Orchard Swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) — Jillski at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Orchard Swallowtail (Papilio aegeus)

The orchard swallowtail flies in the countries of Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. In Australia this butterfly is more common along the coast (James 1988).

Eggs of this butterfly are white are laid on the upperside of the host plant leaves. Caterpillars are at first brown with white giving the appearance of a bird dropping. Later instars are green with white. The chrysalis is green to brown and is attached to the stems of the host plant (Australian Insects).

The adults have a wingspan of 11.5 cm (4.5 in) to 14 cm (5.5 in) with the females being larger than the males. They are black with iridescent aqua with red coloration towards the bottom.

Plants that Host the Orchard Swallowtail

Orchard swallowtails are generalists but are generally hosted by members of the Rue Family (Rutaceae). Some species in the Sydney area include:

  • Broad-leaved Leopard Tree (Flindersia collina) — a tree (Stride and Straatman 1962)
  • Members of the Citrus genus: trees and shrubs
  • Members of the Flindersia genus: trees
  • Wilga (Geijera parviflora): a shrub or tree
  • Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata): a shrub or tree (Sankowsky 1978)
  • Curry Tree (Murraya koenigii): a tree (Sankowsky 1978)
  • Hardy Orange (Poncrius trifoliata): a tree
Close-up of white flower of wilga (Geijera parviflora).
Flower of Wilga (Geijera parviflora) — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Leaves of hickory ash (Flindersia ifflana) in a rainforest.
Leaves of Hickory Ash (Flindersia ifflana) — Steve Fitzgerald, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dianty Swallowtail (Papilo anactus) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Yellow egg of dainty swallowtail (Papiio anactus) on a leaf.
Egg of Dainty Swallowtail — Ypna, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brown and green caterpillar stages of dainty swallowtail (Papilio anactus).
Brown and Green Caterpillar of Dainty Swallowtail — Jlamy nc, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brown chrsysalis of dainty swallowtail (Papilio anactus) on wood.
Chrysalis of Dainty Swallowtail — Donald Hobern, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Dainty swallowtail (Papilio anactus) on white flower with wings outspread.
Dainty Swallowtail (Papilio anactus) — Andrew Allen, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dainty Swallowtail (Papilio anactus)

The dainty swallowtail flies generally along the east coast of Australia with scattered locations inland.

The eggs are yellow and are laid on the upperside of the host plant leaves. The caterpillars are green to black in color with a row of spines on the back. The color of the pupa, which overwinters, usually matches the color of the stem that it is attached to (Wikipedia) and is stick-like in shape (Hancock 2009).

The adult butterflies have a wingspans ranging from about 6 cm (2.4 in) to 7.5 cm (3 in) and are black and yellow (cream) colored. This butterfly looks a lot like the clearwing swallowtail (Cressida cressida), of which it mimics (Wikipedia). They fly from October to May.

Plants that Host the Dainty Swallowtail

The dainty swallowtail is hosted by members of the Rutaceae. Some genera and species in this family in Sydney include:

  • Members of the Citrus genus: shrubs and trees
  • Wilga (Geijera parviflora): a shrub or small tree
  • Common Rue (Ruta graveolens): a herbaceous plant (Scott, et al 1890)
Tree of wilga (Geijera parviflora) in a park.
Wilga (Geijera parviflora) — Ruff tuff cream puff, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chequered Swallowtail (Papilo demoleus) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Greenish-yellow egg of chequered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) on a leaf.
Egg of Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) — Hemant Ogale, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brown and white caterpillar of chequered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) on leaf.
Brown and White Caterpillar of Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) — Bias Chakraborty, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Green caterpillar of chequered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) on the ground.
Caterpillar of Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) — J.M.Garg, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Chequered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) on veegtation with wings outspread.
Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) — Haneesh K M., CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Chequered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) on red flower with wings folded. A swallowtail in Sydney.
Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) — Haneesh K M., CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus)

The chequered swallowtail flies throughout Australia and ranges around the world in the southern hemisphere and the tropical regions. It has yellowish-green eggs that are laid on the tops of leaves of the host plants. The caterpillars have five stages or instars before pupating, and progress from a black and white color before ending as a green color in the last instar. The pupa generally matches the color of its surroundings.

The adult butterflies have a wingspans ranging from about 8 cm (3.1 in) to 10 cm (3.9 in) and are black and yellow colored. This butterfly can have many flights during the year.

Plants that Host the Chequered Swallowtail

The chequered swallowtail is hosted by members of the Rue Family (Rutaceae) and the Bean Family (Fabaceae). In the Sydney area there are several species that host this butterfly in Sydney and include:

  • Members of the Citrus genus: shrub and trees
  • Pink Lime-berry (Clausena excavata) — an evergreen shrub
  • Taylorina (Psoralea pinnata) — an evergreen shrub or small tree
  • Tough Psoralea (Cullen tenax) — a herbaceous plant
White flower of Australian Finger Lime (Citrus australasica).
Australian Finger Lime (Citrus australasica) — Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Purplish-white flowers of taylorina (Psoralea pinnata).
Taylorina (Psoralea pinnata) — Abu Shawka, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Four-barred Swordtail (Protographium leosthenes) and its host plants in Sydney, NSW

Four-barred swordtail (Protographium leosothenes) on a leaf.
“Four-barred-Swordtail_MG_5381.jpg” – Protographium leosthenes (Doubleday, 1846) observed in Australia by Steven Dew (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Four-barred Swordtail (Protographium leosothenes on a twig.
“Four-barred-Swordtail_MG_5377.jpg” – Protographium leosthenes (Doubleday, 1846) observed in Australia by Steven Dew (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Four-barred Swordtail (Protographium leosthenes)

The four-barred swordtail flies mainly along the east coast of Australia and is isolated elsewhere. It is one of the few endemic Papilionidae in Australia (Racheli 1980 and Collins and Morris 1985). In the Sydney area this species has been reported as an occasional migrant (Brown 2004). It has cream-colored eggs that are laid singly 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 4.9 cm (1.9 in) to 5.3 cm (2.1 in) and are black and white colored with four bars on the upperside that identify the butterfly (Wikipedia-Protographium leosthenes).

Plants that Host the Four-barred Swordtail

The four-barred swordtail is hosted by members of the Custard Apple Family (Annonaceae). In the Sydney area these include:

  • Zigzag Vine (Uvaria leichhardtii) — a vine
Orange fruits of zig-zag vine (Uvaria leichhardtii) in a rainforest.
Fruits of Zig-Zag Vine (Uvaria leichhardtii) — Mark Marathon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nectar Plants to Consider Putting in Your Garden

Leaves of weeping lilli pilli (Syzygium floribundum) in a wooded area.
Weeping Lilli Pilli (Syzygium floribundum) — Poyt448 Peter Woodard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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 Sydney, NSW area include:

  • Common Lantana (Lantana camara): a naturalised herbaceous plant (Dunn 1999)
  • Creeping Lantana (Lantana montevidensis): a naturalised herbaceous plant (Dunn 1999)
  • Tea-tree (Leptospermum spp.) — shrubs and trees
  • Weeping Lilli Pilli (Syzygium floribundum): a tree (Williams and Adam 2019)

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 several gardens in the Sydney area that can be visited in order to get ideas for your Butterfly Garden. These include the:

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney: A large garden in Sydney that has a wildflower meadow.

Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan: a garden in SW Sydney in Dharawal Country that a number of natural areas to visit.

Auburn Botanical Gardens: has a rainforest garden that can be visited.

Books where you can find out more about Butterfly Gardening in the Sydney, NSW Area

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References

  • Brown, S.S. 2004. A Range Extension for Protographium leosthenes leosthenes (Doubleday) (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) in Southern Australia. Australian Entomologist 31(3): 110.
  • Collins, N. Mark. and Michael G. Morris. 1985. Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World. (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN).
  • Crosby, D.F. 1998. The Butterflies of Mount Buffalo National Park. The Victorian Naturalist 115(2): 220-225.
  • Dawson, Iain. 1991. Plant Hardiness Zones for Australia. Australian Horticulture 89(8): 37-39.
  • Dunn, Kelvyn L. 1999. Butterfly and Diurnal Moth Nectar Sources: Lantana spp. (Verbenaceae) (Personal records 1978-1998). Victorian Entomologist 29(5): 98-100.
  • Hancock, David. 2009. Relationships of the Swallowtail ‘Genera’ Agehana Matsumura, Chilasa Moore and Elepone Hancock (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Australian Entomologist 36(1): 7-12.
  • James, David G. 1988. Induction of Pupal Diapause in Papilio aegeus Donovan and Graphium sarpedon choredon (C. & R. Felder) (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Australian Entomological Magazine 39-44.
  • Johnson, Karen A. and Peter B. McQuillan. 2011. Comparative floral presentation and bee-pollination in two Sprengelia species (Ericaceae). Cunninghamia 12(1): 45-51.
  • Kitching, R.L. and M.P. Zalicki. 1982. A Cautionary Note on the Use of Ovipositional Records as Larval Food Plant Records. Australian Entomological Magazine 10(5): 64-66.
  • Murphy, Michael J. 2011. Notes on the butterflies of Bruxner Park on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia. The Victorian Naturalist 128(1): 11-14.
  • Page, Malcolm G.P. and Colin G. Treadway. 2013. Speciation of Graphium sarpedon (Linnaeus) and allies (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera: Papilionidae). Stuttgarter Beitrage zur Naturkunde A, Neue Serie 6: 223-246.
  • Racheli, Tommaso. 1980. A List of the Papilionidae (Lepidoptera) of the Solomon Islands, with Notes on their Geographical Distribution. Australian Entomological Magazine 7(4): 45-59.
  • Sankowsky, Garry. 1991. New Food Plants for Some Queensland Butterflies. Australian Entomological Magazine 18(1): 9-19.
  • Sankowsky, Garry. 1978. Some New Food Plants For Various Queensland Butterflies. Australian Entomoogical Magazine 5(4): 77-79.
  • Scott, Alexander Walker, Helena Forde Scott, and Harriett Morgan Scott. 1890. Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations. (London: John van Voorst).
  • Smithers, C.N. 1978. Migration Records in Australia. 2. Hesperidae and Papilionidae (Lepidoptera). Australian Entomological Magazine 5(1): 11-14.
  • Stride, George O. and R. Straatman. 1962. The Host Plant Relationship of an Australian Swallowtail, Papilio aegeus, and its Significance in the Evolution of Host Plant Selection. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 87(1): 69-78.
  • Valentine, Peter S. 1994. Backyard Butterflies in Northern Queensland: The Late Dry Season. Victorian Entomologist: News Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Victoria. 24(2): 38-41.
  • Williams, Geoff and Paul Adam. 2019. A Preliminary Checklist of Flower-visiting Insects from Syzygium floridundum, Syzygium smithii and Tristaniopsis laurina: three members of the Myrtle Rust-vulnerable plant family Myrtaceae. Cunninghamia 19: 57-72.
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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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