New Expedition: Host Plants of Virginia

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Photo credit: Glenn Montague

Welcome to a new Notes from Nature Project and a series of upcoming Expeditions: Host Plants of Virginia. This series expands on the Pollinator Plants of Virginia theme to include vascular plant genera that support the larvae or adults of moths and butterflies. Herbivorous insects may pollinate our agricultural crops and native plants but they also sustain wildlife in Virginia U.S.A., notably many of our migratory songbirds.  These insects are often specialists of particular plant groups or a particular type of food, such as sap, leaf tissue, pollen or nectar. Consequently, documenting local plant diversity is essential for studying these critical ecological relationships. For instance, the massive larvae of the Regal Moth (Citheronia regalis) are consume large quantities leaves from a limited number of tree genera, such as walnut (Juglans nigra) and persimmon (Diospyros viriginia) (see photo), yet consume nothing as adults! In this project, we have assembled herbarium specimens from 70 vascular plant genera that are known to support the larvae or adults of moths and butterflies in the Mid-Atlantic region. This information assembled primarily from the resources: Using native plants to attract butterflies, moths, bees and other pollinators in the Washington, D.C. area (Green Spring Garden, Fairfax County Park Authority, Virginia; 2016) and Bringing Nature Home: How you can sustain wildlife using native plants (Douglas W. Tallamy, Timber Press; 2009).

 

Andrea Weeks, George Mason University

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