A backyard flower garden is a fun family project that can be enjoyed throughout the year and, with a little planning, it can also serve as a habitat for butterflies native to the southeastern US. Butterflies are both beautiful to observe and are plant pollinators essential to the ecosystem. When a butterfly lands on a flower to drink nectar and then leaves, it takes some of the flower’s pollen with it. The pollen then ends up on the next flower the butterfly visits. Some of the foods humans eat could not be produced without plant pollinators like butterflies. In recent years, scientists have noted a concerning decrease in butterfly populations. The decrease may be a result of a loss of habitat and a reduction in the availability of food sources suitable for butterflies.
– To create a garden that butterflies will want to live in year-round, provide the essentials of food, shelter and water and avoid pesticides.
– Select flowers that provide nectar for adult butterflies and host plants that serve as food for butterflies in the caterpillar stage. To make it friendly for Monarch butterflies, plant butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), the only plant Monarch caterpillars will eat. Plants that serve as food sources for the caterpillars of other butterfly species include Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa). Native plants that provide nectar for adult butterflies include Three-Lobed Coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba), Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) and Asters (Symphyotrichum sp.).
– Provide adult butterflies with a spot to rest by placing some flat rocks in a sunny spot. Butterflies use sunlight to help regulate their body temperature. Over the winter, butterflies that do not migrate need shelter. Place a butterfly nesting box in your garden, and plant trees and shrubs that can be used as shelter by butterflies that are overwintering in chrysalises.
– Butterflies use puddles of water as a source for essential minerals. Create a ‘puddler’ by burying a dish in your garden, with the edge even with the surrounding soil. Fill the dish with sand and with some rocks for the butterflies to land on. Keep the sand in the puddler moist by adding water when needed.
A local resource for families interested in learning more about butterfly conservation is the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at the Callaway Resort & Gardens, located in Pine Mountain, GA. Visitors to the indoor butterfly conservatory enjoy watching adult butterflies fluttering from one flower to another as they feed on nectar. Visitors also have the opportunity to observe the amazing process of new butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.
Visit the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center to walk through a native butterfly garden and take in a “Gardening for Butterflies” program every Friday at 10am through August. You can also be a part of “Monarch Tagging” where you will learn about the importance of these beautiful butterflies and their migration to Central Mexico.
Plan to spend the day or weekend at Callaway Resort & Gardens to connect with the outdoors on over 2,500 acres featuring lush gardens, wildlife, hiking and biking trails, fishing holes and the world’s largest man-made white sand beach, Robin Lake. In addition to the butterfly center, guests can experience world-class golf, watersports, on-site dining and lodging, spa services or attractions like the Discovery Center, TreeTop Adventures and Birds of Prey Shows.
Visit their website at www.callawaygardens.com/the-gardens/admission-membership/for pricing info. Savings available if purchasing in advance online, with an annual membership and for military members.