Timing is everything when it comes to spotting monarch butterflies. Like birds, butterflies migrate to their northern breeding grounds in the spring and to warmer wintering sites in the fall. Because Texas is an important waystation for butterflies to rest and refuel, you’ll likely catch a few more butterflies than usual fluttering in your garden from September through November. Looking for the best places to see monarchs? We’ve compiled a list of some of Precinct 4’s top butterfly gardens below.
Dennis Johnston Park Butterfly Garden
This sunny space at Dennis Johnston Park proves that you can grow a butterfly garden almost anywhere.
Volunteers created the garden in 2014 in an empty ditch. Although the garden thrived, volunteers worried a flood would drown the plants. Despite their worry, the garden bounced back after suffering floods in 2016 and 2017.
Today, the garden is a certified monarch waystation featuring milkweed, coneflowers, and other native plants. In the fall, the garden comes alive with butterflies migrating to their wintering grounds in Mexico.
Visit the garden Saturday, October 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to learn more about migrating monarchs from the experts.
The Monarch Project Educational Initiative and Spring Creek Education Society will present a variety of programs with milkweed plantings. Check out the activities below:
- Learn about the fall monarch butterfly migration.
- Learn about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.
- Identify different varieties of monarch host plants and milkweed and find monarch eggs and caterpillars.
- Learn how to safely net and hold butterflies.
- Learn how to tag monarch butterflies and take abdominal scale samples to test for the OE parasite, a deadly parasite that infects caterpillars when they eat affected milkweed.
- Discover how to create your own butterfly habitat and certified waystation.
- Help plant milkweed in the Hummingbird and Butterfly Garden
Matzke Park Butterfly Garden
This popular quarter-acre garden is a monarch waystation with seasonal displays of color from spring until frost. A few pollinator favorites now in bloom include milkweed, roses, ginger, esperanza, carpet mums, duranta, Turk’s cap, plumbago, sage, and cannas.
Flowering shrubs and trees provide structure in the garden and shelter pollinators from the wind and weather. Visit the garden to find chaste trees, lime trees, a peach tree, a flowering Texas olive tree, parsley hawthorn, crape myrtles, bottle brush, and American beautyberry.
Mercer Pollinator Garden
Mercer has always been butterfly friendly, but now it’s a certified monarch waystation. Mercer now includes a native plant pollinator garden funded by a grant from the Native Plant Society of Texas.
Located near the Children’s Garden, this garden features pollinator favorites, including milkweed, black-eyed Susans, and Mexican sunflowers. The garden’s location was chosen as a transition between the Shakespeare Garden and the Children’s Garden, which both contain nectar-producing plants.
Jacob Martin, the Mercer greenhouse manager, said Mercer hopes the garden will help spread awareness about the nation’s dwindling monarch and bee populations.
“We want people to be inspired to plant their own pollinator gardens when they visit,” he said. “They can come here and get ideas about what grows well in our area and the plants that attract the most pollinators. You can always pick out the most popular plants by the number of bees or butterflies you see around them.”
Although most flowering perennials are active during the spring and summer, the garden contains plants attractive to pollinators visiting during all seasons.
“We chose plants that feed the caterpillars as well as the bees and butterflies,” he said. “Butterflies have different needs according to their life cycle.”
Martin said Mercer hopes to add signage to the area, so visitors can learn about the life cycle of the butterfly.
“Our goal is to create an educational space for visitors of all ages to learn about plants and the insects that rely on them,” he said.
Wildscape at Pundt Park
This garden is au naturel! Clusters of wildflowers fill nearly every inch of this wildscape garden. Stay on the path to view bees and butterflies in action. This spot is a favorite of the gulf fritillary butterfly – an orange, black, and white butterfly often mistaken for a monarch.
The garden started about two years ago after TAP staff noticed an abundance of wildflowers and passion flower vine, the host plant of the gulf fritillary butterfly, growing in an empty field. To protect the wildflowers and encourage pollinator awareness, they built a fence around the garden and installed informational signs about the garden. Plans also include adding plant labels inside the garden to help identify common wildflowers.
Nature enthusiasts are invited to join TAP in the spring for Wildflower Wanderings in the garden to see what blooms each week. Visit the garden to view firewheels, mist flowers, showy primrose, and Texas goatweed.
Ready to go butterfly hunting? Read more about monarch butterflies here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/monarch/.