I’ve been seeing lots of Lorquin Admirals in my garden since early spring—a large black and white butterfly with orange-tipped wings. They use native shrubs such as Ocean Spray (Holodiscus) and Western Chokecherry (Prunus spp.) as caterpillar food plants, and willows, and there are many along a creek nearby. Lorquin Admirals have very similar markings to another common butterfly, the California Sister. But unlike the Lorquin Admiral, this butterfly has only one caterpillar host plant—native oaks. Other local butterflies, such as Monarchs (milkweed) and Pipevine Swallowtails (pipevine) also have only one caterpillar host plant.
If you are growing host plants in your garden, be careful when pruning stems and shrubbery where butterfly chrysalides might hide. Because butterfly caterpillars generally move away from the host plant when they are ready to pupate, their chrysalides are often found in other places — on branches and twigs, sometimes in brush piles, even on rocks and windowsills. Butterflies, of course, nectar on many plants. They are attracted to the blossoms of California trees and shrubs, such as Buckeye, Ocean Spray, Ceanothus, Hollyleaf Cherry, Elderberry, Coyote Bush, the many Salvia species. Plant drifts of native perennials such as asters, coyotemint, seaside daisies, buckwheats, gumplant, goldenrod, and yarrow to attract butterflies and other pollinators.