Butterfly garden at The Pinery

Making Pinery more butterfly friendly

In today’s post, summer student Barbara Alber shares a project she completed this year at Pinery Provincial Park.

Butterflies. They’re beautiful, they’re ecologically significant, and they’re one of the only insects that doesn’t make people squirm.

They’re also in trouble.

Species such as the famous monarch butterfly are facing population decline due to the eradication of host and nectar plants. Butterflies are incredibly important pollinators, and their decline could have adverse effects on the environment of Ontario.butterfly garden

I’ve acquired a passion for these winged wonders over the last few years. Recently, I became fed up with repeatedly telling people at my programs that monarchs are dying without doing anything about it. So I took to the dirt.

I decided to plant a “Butterfly Garden” in an unused seating area outside of the Pinery Visitor Centre.

My objective was to create a space where host plants and nectar plants could grow. This would give butterflies a place to lay eggs and nourish themselves, while these valuable plants are being destroyed elsewhere.

And with that, I was introduced to the surprisingly extreme world of gardening. My project meant hours spent digging in 30-degree heat, hand-lifting pounds and pounds of dirt and mulch, and of course, the hardest part of all: keeping the garden alive.

digging the gardenThanks to a curious and hungry rabbit, the latter was easier said than done.

It seemed to have a special appetite for milkweed, the host species for monarch butterflies, which was especially frustrating. After multiple attempts at mitigation, I finally warded him off with a combination of a chicken wire wall, a fishing line fence, and bloodmeal (a fertilizer and rabbit deterrent). Just call me a more diplomatic Elmer Fudd.

And after months of planning, construction, watering, and frustration, I finally have a product that I am proud of.

I always tell campers that every effort to better the environment –no matter how small — makes an impact, and I’m glad I finally took my own advice and built this small-but-mighty garden.

It is a symbol of stewardship and ecological integrity, and most importantly, it shows the public that they can make a big impact with something as unexpected as gardening.

butterfly garden at the pinery

I have already seen species of fritillaries, checkerspots, skippers, and others fluttering around my garden. This makes me believe that my little garden really does make a big difference, and truly does give The Pinery the right to say it is a butterfly friendly park.

Want to help scientists track monarch butterflies? Report your sightings on Journey North!