On the last Saturday of each month the Calusa Garden Club (CGC) Butterfly Brigade meet in the morning at the Butterfly Garden in Calusa Park on Winterberry Road. They come ready to prune, weed and water the flowering shrubs, making sure the butterflies have plenty of flowers for nectar.
Calusa Park is located on a one-half mile linear pathway on Winterberry Drive. It was deeded by the Mackle Brothers as a Green Belt and was referred to as Tract C & D. In July 2011, its name was changed to Calusa Park by the Beautification Advisory Committee. The Butterfly Garden was made possible by a 2003 public endowment from Calusa Garden Club to the City of Marco Island in the sum of $10,000.
In 2001, under the leadership of Syd Mellinger, CGC raised over $12,000 through the sale of a Garden Guide called “Palms, Pineapples and Periwinkles.” CGC is currently finalizing an updated version of the “Palms, Pineapples and Periwinkles.”
Post Irma, the mature trees lining the winding shell pathway of Calusa Park are showing new growth and some are flowering. Native plants purchased from local native plant nurseries are preferred for the Butterfly Garden. According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture (IFAS), native plants are those that “occur naturally in our area…that have evolved over time with the biological and physical factors to the region, such as soil, climate and rainfall.”
Native plants require less fertilizer, growing in a more sustainable rate. At the Butterfly Garden, some plants are annuals, others are perennials; most reseed themselves; other shrubs go dormant for a brief period, and some grow at slower rate than others. Mulch is applied around the plantings to minimize weed growth.
The Dutchman’s pipe or pipevine is a very striking plant climbing over sturdy trellises at the back of the garden. Its flowers are shaped like a curved pipe with large heart-shaped leaves. The flowers are speckled and plum colored appearing in late spring and early summer. This is a host plant for swallowtail butterflies and other beneficial insects for the garden.
A mass planting of gaillardia, also known as a blanket flower, is in full bloom with its bright daisy-like flowers that appear all summer and into fall. The dune sunflowers provide a stunning carpet of yellow flowers all over the garden. Both are native plants that attract butterflies and bees.
CGC volunteers also maintain year-round the Blue Star Memorial Marker in Veterans Community Park, Leigh Plummer Marker, the Pineapple Historical Marker on South Barfield and the Sand Hill Marker.
For more information on the Calusa Garden Club, visit www.calusa.org.