Have you ever visited a Butterfly Oasis? No, no not an enclosed space. Try instead a real, dynamic, thriving habitat, with wild butterflies flying in all the time? In 2015, I read Facebook posts, sharing snippets of news, about the creation of a butterfly habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. Seeing Southern butterflies was high on my list. I contacted the Founder (she is, no matter how she disclaims that) of this Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch. I received a hearty, Come on Down, and see for yourself!
In April 2015 I drove down to Eatonton, about 1.3 hours east of Atlanta. Putnam county was beautiful, lush green. Lake Oconee had already attracted national developers, and many hundreds of fine homes have been added not to far away from the briar patch habitat. The whole area is eye-pleasing. Folks there are friendly and pleasant. I visited 3 more times in 2015, and every visit was the same, positive, upbeat.
Virginia C. Linch is that Founder, unflappable, hard-working and a magnet for the project, attracting people in the community to weed, plow, bulldoze, construct, plant and donate botany.
The Recipe for the Creation of a Butterfly Oasis in a municipality like Eatonton (the county seat of Putnam county) became clear:
- Have a Vision – Virginia’s was that of a site full with native wildflowers and hostplants, good to the eye and very attractive to butterflies
- Tirelessly campaign to achieve broad community approval and awareness – Insure success by involving local people who enjoy doing and helping and sustaining
- Set the Example – Virginia leaves her job each day and heads straight to the habitat. She weeds, often for hours. She cajoles, straightens and tweeks the thousands of plants, and that induces others to do the same
- Share the Wish Lists that will end-up improving the habitat
- Nudge the site, add a water source, as Virginia’s cadre did, to get moisture to the habitat during bone-dry stretches in July and other months. Truck in top-soil, mulch and more.
- Involve children – Virginia beams with delight when children visit, and get involved. They will bring their adults, and they will put the habitat on the map, so to speak
- Urge all to bring what they see and learn to their own home gardens, i.e., plant hostplants for caterpillars and flowering plants for adult butterflies.
- Let’s finish this bullet-list with Virginia’s perhaps most important attribute: She does not give up! She confronts challenges, and finds ways to overcome them, by one way or another.
This Long-tailed Skipper butterfly is blissfully sipping nectar from a very fresh Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) bloom. I could not have seen it in my own Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is a southern U.S. butterfly. There was that one morning in August where I saw 29 different species of butterflies in the habitat. Ok, ready? Wow! Butterflies that came from miles away, just to enjoy the sweet nectars offered there. Many, many deposit their eggs while there, and the magnificent cycle continues.
I am not sure how many other U.S. cities and towns have such a habitat. My guess? Not enough. I have shared my observations with you, for, truth be told, I remain very . . . impressed. This is for sure an American model that should be emulated.