Arboretum receives monarch butterfly garden grant

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Wood County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens will soon add a monarch butterfly garden to improve the local environment and educate the community.

Lin Grado, garden manager at the Arboretum, applied and was awarded a $400 Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas (BBMT) grant. BBMT is a committee of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

This year, 42 grant applications were submitted and 16 entities were chosen. The goal of these grants is to further monarch butterfly conservation and education as well as showcase the use of native plants.

“This will be unique to Wood County,” Grado said.

The sensory garden near George Bridge at the Arboretum will become the butterfly garden, according to Grado. The sensory garden’s starfish-shaped area will host a variety of native plants suited for caterpillars and butterflies to develop. The butterfly garden will include milkweed, nectar plants and other plants beneficial to butterflies.

Butterflies need a place to feed and raise their young. Milkweed plants not only provide caterpillars with food but also protection from predators, Grado said.

She hopes to have the butterfly garden ready in time for Science Days in late May, when the Wood County Master Gardeners teach local third graders about the environment and wildlife at Gov. Jim Hogg City Park and the Arboretum.

Grado says monarchs normally travel along I-35 in Texas on their way to Mexico during their migration. However, human development and the use of herbicides have reduced suitable habitat.

Grado added that monarchs are some of the top pollinators. Monarchs pollinate trees, and with more native trees, more butterflies will come.

In addition to the starfish area, volunteers will be adding plants along the fencing, such as flame acanthus, turk’s cap, maximilian sunflower, frostweed and buttonbush, to replace non-native vegetation.

Grado explained that modern plants tend to lose the nectar producing traits seen in plants native to East Texas.

This butterfly garden will take more than 200 hours to complete, Grado noted. Schools, home schools and scouting groups would be able to visit the garden for educational purposes.

For more information about the monarch butterfly garden, contact the Wood County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens at woodcountyarbo@gmail.com.

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