“If you plant nectar plants, butterflies will come,” remarked Calusa Garden Club member Susan LaGrotta.
Calusa Park’s Butterfly Garden on Winterberry Drive is thriving, attracting a kaleidoscope of butterflies sipping the sweets from their favorite nectar plants and laying their eggs on the plentiful hosts plants. This small gem of a garden is maintained year- round by members of the Calusa Garden Club. On the last Saturday of each month, volunteers gather to weed, trim and take a quick inventory of the plants and butterflies.The zebra longwing (Florida’s state butterfly), a black butterfly with light yel- low, zebra-like stripes, enjoy the nectar of the firebush and will deposit its eggs on the corky-stemmed passion flower (passiflora suberosa). Donna Kay added that the “Monarch caterpillars prefer the scarlet milkweed while the female gulf fritillary has a passion for the passionvine.” Thanks to Marco’s warm weather, the migratory monarchs tend to remain and breed throughout the year.
Marco Island is perfect for butterfly gar- dening with warm weather and hundreds ofbutterfly plants. Southwest Florida has about 160 species of butterflies, and it is easy to create your own butterfly garden by planting a mix of plants that attract, feed and nourish the butterflies.
Calusa Garden Club members Susan LaGrotta, Donna Kay and Sue Oldershaw keep a running list of plants that caterpillars feed on (host plants) and nectar plants that adult butterflies feed on (nectar plants). Plant what butterflies like and all year they will visit your garden and stay.
Common Nectar Plants: blue porter- weed,firebush, lantana, red pentas, gaillardia, and beach sunflower.
Common Caterpillar Host Plants: Cassia, corky-stemmed passionflower, dill, fennel, pipevine, and scarlet milkweed.
The Butterfly Garden has a collection of favorite plants for the butterflies. Stop by for a visit, bring your camera and enjoy the butterflies as they flutter by.
The Butterfly Garden at Calusa Park was made possible as part of a donation to the City of Marco Island from the Calusa Garden Club. For more information on the Calusa Garden Club, visit them online at www.calusa.org and on Facebook/Calusa Garden Club.