Community Butterfly Habitat
I recently met with a group of community volunteers who are interested in providing more butterfly habitat in our public areas. Monarchs migrating to Mexico this time of year use northwest Florida as a stopover and feeding site, but if host plants are unavailable they cannot sustain a healthy population. In addition, Gulf fritillaries, buckeyes, and swallowtails are spending time in local butterfly gardens, feeding on passion vine, butterfly bush, milkweed, and more.
The volunteers and several county staff visited three publicly-managed stormwater ponds, which are an ideal setting for what some proponents term “Butterflyscaping.” The open space, water source, and diversity of plants along the edge of the ponds lend themselves well to wildlife habitat.
When considering adding vegetation to a neighborhood common area, there are several things to consider. First is maintenance. If there’s an annual contract with a landscaping company to mow or maintain an area, you’ll want to have a discussion about excluding the new planting area from mowing to establish new vegetation. You’ll also want to look at the soil and amount of sunlight to determine the best plant choices for the area.
A variety of groundcovers, flowering plants, shrubs and small trees will typically provide food for both caterpillars and adult butterflies. Once established, these new landscape additions will not only provide habitat and color, but may end up reducing maintenance costs as well.
For more information, the UF publication “Community Butterflyscaping” is an excellent resource for landscape design, plant choices, and practical steps toward getting started with a neighborhood or schoolyard project.