Looking through plants, I've started noticing that all the flowers marked that they attract hummingbirds have flowers with deep, tube-like, petals. Meanwhile, it seems like the plants that are marked that they attract butterflies have clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers.

Is this just a correlation I've noticed, or do butterflies and hummingbirds actually have a preference for the shape of flowers they visit?

Here's an example of a plant for hummingbirds:
Flame Honeysuckle

Here's an example of a plant for butterflies:
Orange Butterfly Plant

3 Answers 3


Yes, you are correct. Hummingbirds have adapted to sip nectar from longer, tubular flowers. You'll notice this when you look at their bill, which is elongated, and often curved to better match the shape of the flowers. Their vision is also adapted to their food source, and they only see black, white, and red. So flowers that are in the orange-pink-purple range will stand out, with red the brightest. So the best hummingbird flowers are red, tubular, and have plenty of nectar (so the birds don't expend as much energy moving from flower to flower).

Butterflies are a little different. They have a proboscis that helps, but they just can't reach that deep into flowers. The flowers butterflies are most comfortable with are shallower than the flowers hummingbirds like. If the flowers are strong enough to support the weight, that's a plus for butterflies, as they don't hover. The most efficient flowers for butterflies will come in groups, like heads or spikes, so that the butterflies don't have to travel so far to get each sip.

And there is some overlap. For instance, out back, we have a large trumpet vine, which attracts many hummingbirds, some butterfly bushes, which the monarchs and swallowtails cover, and some agastache, which attracts the majority of the smaller skippers and cabbage butterflies. What was interesting is that the hummingbirds would often come down and visit a few purple butterfly bush flowers, but not the lavender agastache. The small butterflies/skippers will visit the butterfly bushes when the agastache was getting crowded. The bigger butterflies would sometimes attempt the agastache, but not often, and no butterflies actually landed on the trumpet vine flowers.


You are discovering for yourself one of the most beautiful examples of co evolution and interdependence. Flowers and pollinators such as bees, butterflies, other insects, birds and even some bats evolved together to be dependent on one another. One of the most beautiful and important relationships in nature I think.


I would also like to add that butterflies see colors in Ultraviolet, which tends to lead them to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms and the nectar is more visible to them on flowers that are flat-topped, clustered, have short flower tubes and being grouped closely.

Here's and example of a couple flowers take with Ultraviolet-Induced Visible Fluorescence (UVIVF).

Flower_1 Flower_2

Source of images

  • This may be true, but the question asks about the shape of a flower. This doesn't answer the question.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 9:37

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