A female tiger swallowtail butterfly and two species of bee visit a cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) at the WVBG.
Photo by Erin Smaldone
From hemlock and rhododendron forests, to natural wetlands, to cultivated gardens there is always something to see at the WVBG. The flora is rich in Appalachian native species and the fauna that make their home here are to be cherished. Of concern in recent years is the decline in many species of animals worldwide. Examples include fungus attacking amphibians with over 200 species of frogs becoming endangered, and observations that insect numbers may be in sharp decline. For insects, there is a growing awareness that we can do more to support key species, including butterflies and other pollinators, by enriching what we plant so that we support their health and abundance.
Steps we can take to help insects include planting more distinctive selections of plant nectar sources and larval host plants. For instance, monarch butterflies require milkweed (genus Asclepias) as a host plant for larvae development. More and more people are now planting milkweed for the monarchs, and the past year did show an increase in the overwintering population in Mexico after years of decline.
Spicebush swallowtails require plants in the Lauraceae family, which includes Spicebush (Lindera bezoin); Sassafras (Sassafras
albidum); and Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), all present at the WVBG. Another butterfly, the zebra swallowtail, requires
Pawpaw trees for its larval development and the Botanic Garden is looking to add a patch of Pawpaws soon.
Also under development is a pollinator garden in the meadow below the Yagle Garden. We have tilled the soil and have sown a diverse variety of wildflowers specifically designed to support butterflies, native bees, and hummingbirds (see www.kitchengardenseeds.com for habitat garden selections). This effort may take a season or two to be fully established, but please come out to the garden throughout the year to see not only the wonderful flora but also the abundant fauna that is supported by this rich habitat.
By: Dave Davis, WVBG Groundskeeper
originally published in our Summer 2019 Newsletter