Butterflies Common to Marin

The following list provides pertinent information, at a glance, about the butterflies commonly seen in Marin Gardens.


  • Monarch - Danaus plexippus
    Monophagus - Milkweeds (Asclepidaceae) are the only larval host plant 
    best is Asclepias curassavica, (for raising larvae) also A. speciosa, and A. fascicularis
    Fly February to November -
    most commonly seen in Marin in late summer and fall
    Overwinter on California coast as adults in reproductive diapause

  • Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui 
    Polyphagus - Larval host plants are many!
    Aster family (Compositae) Thistles, Asters, Pearly Everlasting

    Mallow family (Malvaceae) Lavatera, Hollyhock
    sometimes also Borage (Boraginaceae)

    and English Plantain

This is the most Cosmopolitan of all butterflies - can be seen all over the northern hemisphere - and flies almost year-long - last mass ‘migration' of the species was in 2005 - overwinter as adults

Species common in URBAN HABITATS

  • Anise Swallowtail - Papilio zelicaon 
    Host Plants - Carrot family (Apiaceae)
    Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Angelica, Yampah, Cow Parsnip -
    sometimes also Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
    Usually fly March – September - multiple broods –
    Overwinter as pupae, a certain percentage of which will be in diapause 
  • Cabbage White - Pieris rapae
    Larval host Plants - Mustard family (Brassicaceae)
    Cabbage family plants, wild Mustard and Radish -
    sometimes also Nasturium! (Tropaeolaceae)
    Usually flies all year – multiple broods - overwinters as pupa
  • Common Checkered Skipper - Pyrgus communis
    Larval host Plants - Mallow family (Malvaceae)
    Sidalcea, Lavatera, Hollyhocks and cheeseweeds
    Usually fly March – October - overwinter as full grown larvae
  • West Coast Lady - Vanessa annabella
    Larval host Plants - Mallow family (Malvaceae)
    Sidalcea, Lavatera, Hollyhock
    Flies any time of year - overwinter as adults

  • American or Virginia Lady - Vanessa virginensis
    Larval host Plants - Aster family ( Compositae )
    Cudweed, Pearly Everlasting –
    sometimes Mugwort and Thistles
    Flies almost all year - overwinter as adults


  • Grass Skippers - Hesperiidae family
    Larval host plants  - CA native bunchgrasses –
    esp. Nasella pulchra and Festuca rubra
    sometimes also lawn grasses when mower blades are set on high
    Most species fly April – November
    Different Skipper species overwinter in different stages –
    overwintering strategies for some species are unknown ! 
  • Mylitta Crescent - Phyciodes mylitta
    Larval host plants - Aster family (Compositeae)
    mostly Thistles, inc. Cirsium occidentalis
    Fly March - October - overwinter as half-grown larvae
  • Common Buckeye - Junonia coenia
    Larval host plants - Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae)
    Mimulus, Diascia, Penstemon, Snapdragon -
    sometimes Mare's tail (Hippurus vulgaris) and English Plantain
    Fly March - November - overwinter as larvae
  • Variable Checkerspot - Euphydryas chalcedona
    Larval host plants - Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae)
    Mimulus aurantiacus, CA Bee plant, Indian Warrior and Indian Paintbrush - sometimes also English Plantain 
    Adults fly for just a few months – April – July - overwinter as larvae
  • California Sister - Adelpha bredowii
    Larval host plants - CA native Oaks (Fagaceae)
    usually Coast Live Oak
    Flies April - October - overwinter as larvae
  • Mournful Duskywing - Erynnis tristis
    Larval host plants - CA native Oaks (Fagaceae)
    usually Coast Live, Blue, or Valley Oak
    Flies March to October - overwinter as larvae


  • Western Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio rutulus
    Larval host plants - Willows, Alders, Sycamores, Ash
    and sometimes Prunus (ilicifolia) and other species
    Adults fly March – September - overwinter as pupae
  • Pipevine Swallowtail - Battus philenor
    Larvae are monophagus - California Pipevine –
    Aristolochia californica only !
    Adults fly April – September - overwinter as pupae
  • Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta
    Larval host plants - Nettle family ( Urticaceae) -
    stinging nettles, Pellitory, sometimes also Baby Tears
    Adults fly all year - overwinter as adults
  • Lorquin’s Admiral - Limenitis lorquini
    Larval host plants - Willows, Prunus spp.
    often Cherry and other fruit trees
    also Holodiscus discolor ( Rosaceae )
    Adults fly April - October
    Overwinter as half-grown larvae in a rolled-up leaf
  • Mourning Cloak - Nymphalis antiopa
    Larval host plants - Willows, Alders, Poplars and Elms
    Adults live a full year – and fly on any warm, sunny day 
    Overwinter as adults

Species common in CHAPARRAL

  • Pale Swallowtail - Papilio eurymedon
    Larval host plants - Holodiscus discolor, Coffeeberry and
    Prunus spp., esp P. ilicifolia
    Adults fly May – July only - overwinter as pupae
  • Gray or Common Hairstreak - Strymon melinus
    Larval host plants are many -
    including Pea family (Fabaceae) - alfalfa, clovers, Melilotus
    also Coffeeberry ( Rhamnaceae )
    Adults fly March – October - overwinter as pupae
  • Acmon Blue - Plebejus acmon
    Larval host plants - Pea family  ( Fabaceae )
    Buckwheat family ( Polygonaceae )
    Adults fly March – October - overwinter as larvae
  • Silvery Blue - Glaucopsyche lygdamus
    Larval host plants - Pea family (Fabaceae)
    various Lotus spp., lupine, vetch, clover
    Adults fly March – June - overwinter as pupae
  • Spring Azure - Celastrina ladon echo
    Larval host plants - Ceanothus, Holodiscus discolor,
    Buckeye, Creek Dogwood
    Adults fly February – June - overwinter as pupae