Pussytoes and American lady butterflies

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I like Pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) for a ground cover. They are drought tolerant and I have patches of them growing in various degrees of sun and shade.

However, I recently became concerned when I saw leaves that looked damaged. I was pleasantly surprised when my friend, Connie May of Chrysalis Natural Landscapes, told me the damage was due to caterpillars of the American lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis). And I was relieved when she told me the caterpillars will not destroy the plants.

Pussytoe leaves with caterpillars

When I unrolled one of the curled leaves, I found this small caterpillar inside.

Pussytoe leaf and small caterpillarcaterpillar

Looking closer, I found these larger caterpillars.

American Lady caterpillarsillars

I find them quite attractive. Although their spines can help protect them from predators, I touched them and found them to be harmless.

This has been a fun learning experience. I now appreciate pussytoes, not only as an effective ground cover, but also as a host plant for American lady butterflies. The largest caterpillar has now made a chrysalis. I hope to share the rest of the story and images of the butterfly that emerges in a future post.

12 thoughts on “Pussytoes and American lady butterflies”

    1. Judy, wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew of the connection between caterpillars and butterflies?

  1. Well Betty, you have an AMAZING Back Yard! All these wonderful creatures and beautiful plants in your garden, and how privileged we are to enjoy viewing your
    excellent photography. These caterpillars are striking, and so colourful. I hope we
    may have an opportunity to see the butterflies!

    1. Pauline, the American Lady is primarily a North American butterfly. However, the Painted Lady is quite similar and is found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. I’m wondering if you have ever seen it in the Chanel Islands?

      1. Ah yes, Betty ….. We do have the Painted Lady butterfly
        in Jersey and all over the U.K. I will do my best to capture some on my camera soon!

      2. Thanks, Pauline. Glad to know both of us can enjoy the Painted Lady Butterfly.

  2. Thanks Betty! That post made me smile as I just discovered American Lady “cats” on my cudweed. Love how they make their little nest. My husband thinks I’m crazy leaving the cudweed growing everywhere. Will have to add Pussytoes to my landscape ; ).

    1. Christine, I’m not familiar with cudweed but am guessing it is somewhat ‘weedy’. I hope you will try pussytoes. I like it as a ground cover and would grow it even if it wasn’t a host plant for the American Lady.

  3. After you taught me what to look for, I found those curled leaves on my Spicebush last week. I’ll be watching closely now. Thanks Betty!

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