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Butterfly Gardening and Habitat Program

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Bent Alligator Flag - Thalia geniculata

Named for the reptiles that might hide among its tangled roots, bent alligator flag is native to cypress swamps, marshes and ponds. Related to cannas and bananas, the stalks of bent alligator flag average eight feet tall, but can reach up to twelve feet under some conditions. In summer through fall, purple flowers hang in zigzag clusters at the end of the flower stalks.

Consider planting bent alligator flag in a wetland garden or urban habitat where it can receive ample moisture. It is easily propagated by root division.

Importance as a caterpillar food source: Bent alligator flag is the host plant for the Brazilian Skipper. Single gray eggs are laid on the leaves of alligator flag. After emerging, Brazilian Skipper caterpillars make shelters out of leaves by folding the leaves over and securing them with silk. The caterpillars emerge from their shelters at night to feed, often causing severe defoliation. Due to their robust eating habits, it is often easier to locate Brazilian Skipper as a caterpillar rather than as a butterfly.

Importance as a butterfly nectar source: Bent alligator flag is not an important nectar source.

The current rating for bent alligator flag is:

Garden Rating
Nectar Rating
Caterpillar Rating

If you have experience growing bent alligator flag, we would like your opinion. Let us know how it performed in your butterfly garden. Your comments will help other butterfly gardeners in your region to create better butterfly gardens:

Bent Alligator Flag Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone
9 to 11
Bloom Period
June through Nov.
Bloom Color
Plant Height
average 8 feet
Plant Spread
varies, spreads by rhizome
Light Exposure
Sun to light shade
Soil Moisture
Wet, does not tolerate salt
Animal/Disease Problems








Native range for Bent Alligator Flag (Thalia geniculata)


Bent Alligator Flag flower


Detail of Florida Native range for Bent Alligator Flag (Thalia geniculata)


Bent Alligator Flag leaves















©2008 North American Butterfly Association