What food plants can I feed a monarch butterfly in NZ? What do monarch caterpillars eat?

In NZ the natural food species of the monarch (Danaus plexippus) larvae is the Asclepiadiae family – milkweed which includes swan plant (Gomphocarpus fruticosus) and giant swan plant (G. physocarpus) as well as Asclepias species such as tropical milkweed/bloodflower (A. curassavica). The tropical milkweed comes in two colours -scarlet (which has a gold centre) and gold (all yellow).

The term ‘milkweed’ can be confusing – but a Fact Sheet on this is available. The Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust will be able to help you with seed of the giant swan plant and tropical milkweed, see our shop.

When caterpillars have eaten all the leaves of your milkweed they will then eat the stems and fruit (seed pods). You can crush the ends of the stems to soften them too while you sort out a long-term solution. Don’t let them wander away!

*** If you have “run out of food” place a notice in the forum but make sure to say where you live. Or try the Facebook page, “Monarch Matchmaker“. Someone in your neighbourhood may be able to help!***

Adult butterflies need plants giving nectar. They usually choose flowers with bright colours, purples, pinks and blues in mass plantings. Buddleias and Hebes are very popular. There are more listed in our forum – click on the link on the homepage to go there. There is a poster showing many nectar plants available from the MBNZT. See it here.