As a native plant advocate, I love to tell people about the relationships between native plants and native insects. Butterfly gardening advice is a perfect time to bring home the message about those relationships. There are two things that most people know about insects and the plants they eat: monarch butterflies eat milkweed and black swallowtail butterflies eat parsley, dill, and fennel. And that’s when I cringe.
Parsley, dill and fennel are non-native plants in the Apiaceae family (often called the parsley family). The black swallowtail butterfly uses plants in the Apiaceae family as host plants. There are many native plants in that family, and those are what black swallowtails used before we brought parsley/dill/fennel here and it’s what they use in the wild.
Angelica spp. is one such host plant. We find hairy angelica (Angelica venenosa) on rescue sites with dry, sunny areas. It is drought tolerant and perennial. Its range includes much of Georgia except for the southeast areas. Look for Coastal Plain angelica (Angelica dentata) instead for SE Georgia.
I have included this plant in my garden and it has just finished blooming; it is now forming big seeds for fall songbirds to feast on. I hardly ever see black swallowtails in my area so I have not had any caterpillars on my plants. Last year, however, I was excited when GNPS member Richard Lebovitz sent me pictures of caterpillars all over his rescued plant! He lives not far from me so I went over to take pictures.
Other host plants in the Apiaceae family that you might find at plant sales include golden Alexanders (Zizia sp.) and meadowparsnip (Thaspium sp.). Rattlesnake master (Eryngium sp.) is also in the same family. I also like licoriceroot (Ligusticum sp.), waterparsnip (Sium sp.), and the weedy but always free plant called black rattlesnakeroot (Sanicula canadensis). Consider adding some native parsley family plants to support black swallowtail butterflies.