The Elizabethan Gardens: For the love of monarchs

Published 6:30 am Tuesday, November 17, 2020

When Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways . . .” she probably wasn’t thinking about monarch butterflies, but The Elizabethan Gardens is all about loving monarchs. Gardens staffers are working diligently to make their actions count, knowing that monarchs have seen dramatic declines in recent years.

At their weekly butterfly releases, guests learn about monarch habitat and preservation. “We hope that the personal connection they make when they release a monarch connects them in a special way,” remarked Carl V. Curnutte, executive director. “And with the information and guidance we give them, we hope guests will be personally invested to join our efforts to help monarchs in a very few simple and valuable ways.”

The Gardens educates their guests about the unique and important relationship monarchs have with milkweed – their sole host plant. As farms, suburbs, cities and parks were created, milkweeds were considered a weed and removed. “Sadly, if there are no milkweeds, there can be no monarchs,” says Daniel Hossack, Gardens manager.

According to Hossack, five different species and over 60 milkweed plants were featured in and around the Butterfly House and gardens this year. Additionally, these varieties of milkweed plants were available as seeds and plants for guests to purchase for their home gardens. To date, The Elizabethan Gardens sold over 100 milkweed plants.

Experts say one four-foot plant can feed about five monarch caterpillars. So potentially, The Gardens have assisted in giving habitat to over 500 monarchs.

Hossack adds, “Another way we show our love of monarchs is to choose organic ways of gardening instead of using pesticides when possible.”

The Elizabethan Gardens has seen fruits of the efforts: The monarchs they released have produce several offspring. Most likely a good sign that The Elizabethan Gardens is doing their part and showing a little love to monarchs.

“It’s interesting to consider that while most people are aware of the migration of these iconic butterflies, their lifespan is often unclear,” stated a Gardens press release. “It’s actually the 4th or 5th generation that survive to migrate. The first three or so generations of monarchs only have a 2-6 week life span. The latter generations, called the ‘Methuselah Generation’ will migrate to Mexico and live 4-6 months. And the cycle continues.”

The John White Butterfly Center

The Elizabethan Gardens’ John White Butterfly Center opened in the spring of 2019 and is named after John White, who visited Roanoke Island in 1585. White catalogued what he saw here through his watercolors which included the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly.

“For nearly 70 years, The Elizabethan Gardens has been a project of the Garden Club of North Carolina,” shared Linda Davenport, president of The Elizabethan Gardens’ Board of Governors and a member of Washington Garden Club. “Butterflies and gardens go hand in hand. In fact, one of the regional garden clubs spearheaded a campaign to make the tiger swallowtail our official state butterfly. However, monarchs particularly need our help.” Davenport says that she is proud The Elizabethan Gardens is doing their part to educate the public about butterflies.

The Elizabethan Gardens has been designated by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation as part of The Butterfly Highway. She added. “We are doing our best to support these magical winged creatures.”

The Elizabethan Gardens’ staff hopes the public will join them in their efforts to help preserve monarchs. For more information about milkweeds and monarchs, visit www.saveourmonarchs.org or The National Wildlife Federation at www.nwf.org . To inquire about milkweeds at The Elizabethan Gardens, call 252-473-3234 and speak with Daniel Hossack.

Visit elizabethangardens.org or call 252-3234 for more information about The Elizabethan Gardens.

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