Abstract Florida populations of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly, Papilio glaucus L., have unique morphological features and ecological adaptations that have contributed to their subspecies status (P. g. maynardi Gauthier). We describe geographically unique abilities for detoxification of Carolina willow, Salix caroliniana Michx. (Salicaceae), for several Florida populations of P. g. maynardi. Of all the approximately 570 worldwide species of the Papilionidae, such Salicaceae detoxification abilities exist only in the allopatric North American western and northernmost species (P. rutulus Lucas, P. eurymedon Lucas and P. canadensis Rothschild & Jordan). Females of P. glaucus collected from populations in southeastern USA were examined for oviposition preference in 5-choice assays, and displayed a low preference for Salicaceae (<5%), but larvae from Florida populations exhibited a high survival (>60%) on these plants. Detoxification abilities have previously shown to be autosomally inherited, and can be transferred via natural or hand-paired interspecific hybrid introgression. However, these Florida populations are at least 700–1 500 km from the nearest hybrids or the hybrid species, P. appalachiensis Pavulaan & Wright, which possess these detoxification abilities. In any case, the Z ( = X)-linked oviposition preferences for Salicaceae are lacking in these Florida populations, illustrating genetic independence of oviposition preference determination and larval survival/performance abilities. The origins of detoxification abilities are unlikely to be due to recent climate-driven introgression, and may represent ancestral trait carry-overs from interglacial refugium populations of the Pleistocene epoch.