Willow Pond Butterfly Garden
When people talk about the wildlife that benefit from Mount Auburn’s sustainable initiatives, it is easy to focus on Mount Auburn’s special place in the world of ornithology. However, Mount Auburn is equally conscious of the roles that it plays in the sustainability of vital habitats for numerous other groups of wildlife that visit our grounds throughout the year. This is especially true for some of our smallest and most vulnerable visitors – butterflies!
In 2005, Mount Auburn established the Willow Pond Butterfly Garden which is comprised of a grouping of plants found on the southeast bank of Willow Pond. This project was a deliberate effort to increase the number of nectar-producing flowers on our grounds to which native and migrating butterflies flock. Together, the specially selected plants provide a safe and consistent source of nectar for butterflies. Collections of these nectar-producing plants are appearing less frequently in nature due to invasive plant species, pollution, and other land uses. The garden contains more than two dozen different species of high-nectar flowers to attract the broadest spectrum of butterflies.
The butterfly garden, as part of the greater Mount Auburn landscape, provides a habitat that encourages the growth of and sustains the current populations of threatened and near threatened species of butterflies. The nectar of these special butterfly attracting flowers provides the vital sustenance that these butterflies need to continue their migrations through the breeding cycle. The plants found on the southeast side of Willow Pond were chosen specifically because of their hardiness in New England and their particular appeal to butterflies found on the eastern coast of the United States. Some of the butterfly species that you can find in our garden include: Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), American Painted Ladies (Vanessa virginiensis), and various species of American Coppers (Lycaena phlaeas) and Skippers (Hesperia comma).
To create your own butterfly attracting garden, here are a few of the many nectar producing flowers that you can start with, that are also found at Willow Pond: New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Tickseed (Coreopsis), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Stella d’Oro Daylily, (Hemerocallis), Marshall’s Delight (Monarda), Butterfly Blue (Scabiosa columbaria), Brilliant Spectabile (Hylotelephium spectabile), Viola (Viola). Additionally, planting milkweed (asclepsia), the only plant that Monarchs can lay their eggs on, in a butterfly garden is a great way to help ensure the Monarchs continued survival.
The Willow Pond Butterfly Garden hits its peak bloom beginning in June and continues through September. The next time that you visit Mount Auburn, definitely stop by Willow Pond Butterfly Garden to see the beautiful sights and our butterfly visitors for yourself!