If you are trying to build a native plant butterfly garden, these are the trees that will be better in attracting different types of butterflies. Give any of these a shot for the best in butterfly gardens. These are all native to the United States, and will have you gardening with native plants in no time.
Amelanchier arborea (Michx. f.) Fern. (Common Serviceberry, Shadbush)
Serviceberry can either be a deciduous tree or a large shrub, growing up to 30 feet. It produces white flowers in March and reddish purple berrylike fruits from June to August. For bird lovers this tree can’t be beat; over 40 species of birds eat the serviceberry’s fruit and it’s a preferred food of the gypsy moth. It will be a beautiful addition to any butterfly garden.
Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal (Pawpaw)
This moderate growth tree prefers sun to partial shade. It will get 15-30 feet high and have a spread of 15-20 feet. Its leaves get 6-12 inches long and have an unpleasant odor when crushed. It will bloom with maroon flowers and have yellow fall foliage. “Poor Man’s Banana Tree” is another name of this, with its yellow green fruits that ripen to dark brown with a taste much like that of a banana. It is larva food for zebra swallowtail butterflies.
Frangula caroliniana (Walt.) Gray (Carolina Buckthorn)
This tree gets up to 15-30 feet tall and needs a spacing zone of 15-20 feet. It prefers full sun to partial shade. There are pale yellow bell-shaped flowers in late spring to early summer. Carolina Buckthorn also has nice shiny deciduous foliage and good fall color. It is a must have for butterflies and birds, due to the fragrant nature of the blooms. It is a moderately growing tree, and has multi-trunks. Watch for showy red berries that turn black by mid fall. BEWARE: All parts are poisonous if ingested.
Fraxinus americana L. (White Ash)
This moderate growth Ash prefers full sun. It will get up to 60-80 feet tall and 50-70 feet wide. It has yellow/red/purple fall foliage and flowers in panicles. The seeds are a good food source for birds and it’s a larval plant for tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak butterflies. It is a good shade tree and is soil adaptable. Propagation is by seed or bud grafting.
Any of the three above will be good for collecting butterflies into your landscape. These trees coupled with the butterfly loving native plants underneath it will just about completely insure your garden landscape will be covered in butterflies by the end of season.