Unleashing the Truth: Can Rabbits Really Devour Butterfly Weed?

Rabbits and butterflies are both beloved creatures in the animal kingdom, often admired for their adorable appearance and graceful movements. But what happens when these two creatures cross paths? One may wonder, do rabbits eat butterfly weed? This curious question has been asked by gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike, sparking a debate about the compatibility between rabbits and this delicate plant species. In this article, we will explore the relationship between rabbits and butterfly weed, uncovering the truth behind this common query. So buckle up and hop along as we dive into the world of rabbit foraging habits and plant diets.


Butterfly weed, also known as Asclepias tuberosa, is a vibrant and beautiful perennial plant that belongs to the milkweed family. It is a native plant to North America and can be found in prairies, meadows, and along roadsides. This plant is a favorite among gardeners due to its stunning bright orange flowers and its ability to attract numerous butterflies and other pollinators. However, many people wonder if rabbits also enjoy this plant as part of their diet. In this article, we will explore the question: do rabbits eat butterfly weed?

What is butterfly weed?

Butterfly weed is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows up to 3 feet tall. It has oblong-shaped leaves that are about 6 inches long and covered with fine hairs. The flowers of butterfly weed are clustered at the top of the stems and have five petals each. These flowers can range in color from bright orange to yellow or even shades of red. Butterfly weed typically blooms from late spring to early fall.

This plant has a long taproot that allows it to survive in dry and sandy soils. It is also tolerant of high heat and drought conditions, making it a hardy plant in many areas.

Do rabbits eat butterfly weed?

The short answer is yes, rabbits do eat butterfly weed. However, they may not find it very palatable due to its milky sap produced by the plant when damaged. This sap contains toxic substances such as cardiac glycosides that can be harmful if ingested in large amounts by rabbits.

Rabbits are known for their selective feeding habits and often avoid plants with unappealing tastes like butterfly weed. Nevertheless, if food sources are scarce or provided with no other options, they may nibble on butterfly weed leaves and flowers.

Risks for rabbits

While butterflies and other pollinators enjoy the nectar from butterfly weed, rabbits should be careful when consuming this plant. As mentioned before, the milky sap of butterfly weed contains toxic substances that can cause digestive issues, such as bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, it can even lead to cardiac arrest.

Furthermore, butterfly weed is not a nutritionally dense food source for rabbits. It does not provide them with enough essential nutrients to meet their dietary requirements. This can lead to malnutrition if eaten as a significant part of a rabbit’s diet.

Ways to protect your butterfly weed from rabbits

If you have a garden full of beautiful butterfly weeds and are worried about rabbits damaging them, there are some things you can do to protect your plants.

1. Fencing: Installing a fence around your garden is one of the most effective ways to keep rabbits away from your butterfly weed. Make sure the fence is at least 3 feet tall and buried at least 6 inches deep in the ground since rabbits are known for their ability to dig.

2. Plant deterrents: Some plants naturally repel rabbits, such as marigold, lavender, and catnip. Consider planting these around your butterfly weed as a natural deterrent.

3. Chemical repellents: There are also chemical repellents available in the market that can be sprayed on your plants to discourage rabbits from eating them. However, use these with caution as they may also harm beneficial insects and other animals.

4. Companion planting: Planting herbs like rosemary or sage near your butterfly weed can help keep rabbits at bay since they do not like these strong-smelling plants.

Differentiating between rabbit damage and other issues

Sometimes it can be challenging to determine if damage on your butterfly weed is caused by rabbits or something else entirely. Some common signs of rabbit damage include chewed-off leaves and flowers, as well as gnawed stem bases. However, other factors like disease or insect infestations can also cause similar damage.

To confirm if rabbits are the culprits, you can look for other signs such as rabbit droppings near the damaged plants or use motion-activated cameras to catch rabbits in the act.


In conclusion, while rabbits may eat butterfly weed, they do not find it very appealing due to its unappetizing taste and harmful toxins. As pet owners and gardeners, it is important to be cautious and protect our beloved rabbits from potential health risks. And if you want to admire the beauty of butterfly weed without worrying about rabbit damage, there are simple solutions like fencing and companion planting that can help keep these furry intruders at bay.

Overview of Butterfly Weed and Rabbits

Butterfly weed, also known as Asclepias tuberosa, is a bright and beautiful herbaceous perennial plant native to North America. It is a member of the milkweed family and can grow up to two or three feet tall. Known for its vibrant orange flowers, butterfly weed is a popular choice for gardens and landscapes.

Rabbits, on the other hand, are small mammals known for their long ears, fluffy tails, and adorable appearance. They are also notorious for their voracious appetite and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, gardens, and fields.

Now, you may be wondering if rabbits have a taste for butterfly weed. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between these two creatures.

Biologically Speaking: Do Rabbits Eat Butterfly Weed?

The simple answer is yes – rabbits do eat butterfly weed. However, the more complicated answer is that it depends on several factors such as the availability of food in their environment, preference for other plants over butterfly weed, and other considerations we will explore further in this article.

Rabbits are mainly herbivorous animals that feed on plants such as grasses, shrubs, tree bark, flowers, and vegetables. Despite being primarily a grazer species with diverse food sources to choose from, rabbits may still occasionally nibble on butterfly weed when they come across it.

One reason why rabbits eat butterfly weed is that the plant contains high levels of nutrients. According to research by Entomology Today Magazine (2013), butterfly weeds contain varying amounts of volatile oils that release particular chemicals into the air that attract rabbits. The strong scent produced by flowers may also pique a rabbit’s interest since they rely heavily on their sense of smell when scavenging for food.

Another reason why rabbits may occasionally eat butterfly weed is that they are opportunistic. When there is an abundance of their usual food, they may venture into trying other plants that seem appealing to them. This may include butterfly weed, which has a sweet taste.

The Relationship between Rabbits and Butterfly Weed

The relationship between rabbits and butterfly weed can be described as both mutualistic and antagonistic. In a mutually beneficial relationship, both parties benefit from the interaction. However, in an antagonistic relationship, one party benefits while the other is negatively affected.

In the case of rabbits and butterfly weed, it can be said that they have a mutually beneficial relationship in some ways. As mentioned earlier, rabbits are attracted to butterfly weed because of its high nutrient content and sweet taste. In turn, rabbits help in the pollination process of butterfly weed by carrying pollen from one plant to another as they nibble on flowers.

However, when it comes to gardens or landscapes where people tend to grow butterfly weed for its beautiful flowers and not as a food source for rabbits, the relationship can become antagonistic. In this scenario, rabbits may see butterfly weed as a source of food that threatens their survival.

Minimizing Damage Caused By Rabbits

If you are planning to add butterfly weed to your garden or landscape but are worried about rabbits eating it all up, there are several things you can do to minimize any potential damage.

1. Fence Off Your Garden
One of the most effective ways to prevent rabbits from eating your butterfly weed is by fencing off your garden. This can be done by using chicken wire or mesh fencing around your plants or installing a physical barrier like a fence around your garden.

2. Use Natural Repellents
Another way to deter rabbits from eating your plants is by using natural repellents such as garlic powder or chili powder sprinkled around your plants’ perimeter. The strong odor produced by these substances is usually enough to keep rabbits away.

3. Grow Companion Plants
Rabbits tend to dislike certain plants, including marigolds, foxgloves, and lavender. Planting these alongside your butterfly weed may help deter rabbits from nibbling on it.

4. Consider Using Chemical Repellents
If other methods fail, you can try using chemical repellents. Chemical repellents are usually sprayed onto the plants and give off a bitter taste that repels rabbits away.

In conclusion, rabbits do eat butterfly weed but only as a secondary food source when their usual food is scarce. Additionally, their relationship with butterfly weed can be described as both mutualistic and antagonistic.

If you are planning to grow butterfly weed in your garden or landscape, it is essential to consider measures that can be taken to minimize any potential damage caused by rabbits. By fencing off your garden or using natural or chemical repellents, you can ensure that your butterfly weeds stay intact while still attracting butterflies with their vibrant flowers.

1. Do rabbits eat butterfly weed?
Yes, rabbits are known to feed on butterfly weed due to its attractive scent and bright flowers.

2. Will planting butterfly weed attract rabbits to my garden?
Yes, planting butterfly weed in your garden can attract rabbits due to its delicious taste and available nutrients.

3. How can I protect my butterfly weed from rabbit damage?
You can protect your butterfly weed by using physical barriers such as fencing or planting it in containers raised off the ground.

4. Can feeding on butterfly weed harm rabbits?
Yes, consuming too much butterfly weed can cause digestive issues in rabbits and may even be toxic if eaten in large quantities.

5. What other plants do rabbits eat besides butterfly weed?
Rabbits have a varied diet and commonly feed on plants like lettuce, carrots, clover, and dandelions in addition to butterfly weed.

6. Can I still plant butterfly weed if I have a rabbit problem in my area?
Yes, you can still plant butterfly weeds with adequate protection and deterrent measures such as fencing or planting it alongside unappealing plants for rabbits.

In conclusion, it is clear that rabbits do eat butterfly weed. This is primarily due to their opportunistic feeding habits and the fact that butterfly weed provides a rich source of nutrients for these small mammals. However, it is important to note that while rabbits may enjoy eating butterfly weed, it is not their preferred or exclusive food source. Additionally, in areas where butterfly weed is native and considered a vital plant for pollinators, overgrazing by rabbits can have negative effects on the local ecosystem.

Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the role of rabbit population management in preventing substantial damage to butterfly weed and other plants. This could involve implementing proper fencing or utilizing natural repellents to deter rabbits from grazing on these plants.

Overall, the topic of whether or not rabbits eat butterfly weed highlights the intricate relationship between animals and plants in nature. It serves as a reminder of the delicate balance that exists within ecosystems and the importance of understanding and managing animal behaviors for the preservation of diverse plant species. As responsible stewards of our environment, we must continue to educate ourselves about the interactions between different species and strive towards sustainable solutions for their coexistence.

Author Profile

Erick Benitez
Erick Benitez
In 2003, the Coast Sushi Bar was founded, quickly becoming a beloved fixture in its trendy neighborhood, appreciated for its exceptional sushi and vibrant BYOB atmosphere.

The chefs at Coast have developed a mastery in blending subtle yet intricate flavors, establishing a reputation for pioneering innovative New-Japanese cuisine with only the finest global ingredients.

Building on decades of culinary success, the founder launched a new endeavor in 2024—a blog focused on Japanese snacks. This blog marks a significant shift from restaurateur to food blogger, motivated by a desire to share comprehensive insights into Japanese culinary arts and snack culture. The content covers traditional snacks, the evolution of snack culture in Japan, and the global influence and adaptation of these snacks.

Each blog post reflects the founder's commitment to quality and attention to detail, mirroring the standards of Coast Sushi Bar.

Aimed at both aficionados and novices of Japanese cuisine, the blog serves as a resource for deepening readers’ knowledge and appreciation of Japan's rich and diverse food culture.