Butterflies are our most beloved insects. They require water, shelter from wind, species-specific host plants for their larvae, and nectar plants for adults. There are about two dozen butterflies which may be found in Iowa although numbers are declining. One of the most popular and well known butterflies, the monarch, has suffered an 80% decline in the last decade. Providing the appropriate habitat for butterflies and other pollinators is quite compatible with creating a lush and beautiful garden for people.
The Butterfly Garden was established in 1991 as a project of the Story County Master Gardeners. Gary Prochaska of Ames was particularly involved with its development. Trees frequented by butterflies such as black alder, river birch, serviceberry, and willows were planted. Shrubs included hydrangeas, fothergilla, viburnum, and spirea. Herbaceous perennials and annuals include purple coneflower, yarrow, Joe Pye weed, gayfeather, catmint, salvia, zinnia and several types of milkweed -butterfly milkweed, common milkweed, and swamp milkweed.
The Butterfly Garden is situated next to the pond containing a fountain, gift of Virginia Denison in memory of her husband who was one of the founders of the Iowa Arboretum and Gardens. This is a lovely and secluded space at the Arboretum where you can relax on a garden bench and listen to the sound of the fountain while watching for butterflies.
Additional photos of the Butterfly Garden
Plant list for Butterfly Garden (last updated 2019)
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