Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
ONE THING THAT MAKES a trip to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center special almost any day of the year is finding so many butterflies out and about. Walk through the meadows or the gardens and butterflies will be dancing in the air, providing a delightful display of color and motion.
The reason why we have so many butterflies is that we raise them and provide them an ideal habitat, thanks to a generous gift from the Ann and O.J. Weber Fund of the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which contributed funds for our butterfly garden. The garden will be 10 years old on October 13, and we plan butterfly activities throughout the fall to celebrate. Judy Walther, who designed the butterfly garden, will teach a Go Native U class in butterfly gardening at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 16. Goblins in the Garden, October 28, will feature a butterfly costume contest.
Providing a happy home for butterflies definitely is in the best interest of the Wildflower Center or any gardener. Butterflies are a joy to see, and they are a critical part of the ecosystem, pollinating the flowers they seek for nourishment.
The Weber butterfly garden was designed to provide the kind of habitats that butterflies rely upon. Because butterflies tend to fly along linear paths such as streambeds, there is a streambed and stream. There are shallow, damp places for puddling, which male butterflies need for water and nutrients. Thickets and vines provide shelter from rain, heat and predators.
Tall grass meadows provide the perching places some butterfly species, like skippers, prefer. The rocky knoll, home to dry land plants found in our western deserts, flowers in the spring and attracts a variety of pollinators. Because butterflies also like woodland edges where there is proximity to open spaces with flowering plants as well as trees for protection our garden has tree-shaded understory plants. Our pond is home to aquatic animals and a great place to see dragonflies.
There is also an insectary, a small wooden building that serves as a butterfly nursery, because as every gardener knows, if you want to have butterflies, you must first have caterpillars. Our dedicated volunteers harvest foliage where butterflies have laid their eggs and gather more of the plants that feed the young caterpillars when they hatch.
I love visiting the insectary to see what the caterpillars are doing, whether there are new chrysalises waiting to hatch out adults, and perhaps being lucky enough to see a newly emerged butterfly drying its wings.
Its an education to see what native plants nourish the larvae, just as it is to see the flowers that different butterflies favor another reason why native plants belong in your garden.
What species will you see? Gulf fritillaries, queens, crimson patch, painted ladies, swallowtails of various species, brightyellow sulfurs and many, many others.
Ann and O.J. Weber are no longer alive to help us celebrate their marvelous gift, but they live on in the lovely legacy of butterflies our visitors can enjoy every day.— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director