Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The butterfly garden at Roper Mountain Science Center

We tend to visit Roper Mountain Science Center at least once a month. If not for one of the events (like the blueberry festival, Holiday Lights or Green Halloween) then it is usually for a playdate in the butterfly garden. Although you can easily become a member and enjoy free admission to the planetarium and observatory in addition to many other benefits, the butterfly garden is free to members and non-members alike.

a gulf fritillary
The butterfly garden is a joint project of the Roper Mountain Science Center, the roper Mountain Science Center Association, and the Greater Greenville Master Gardeners. Upon entering the RMSC drive keep your eyes peeled for a sign posted “gardens” and follow off to the right. Next to the Harrison Hall of Natural Science and Technology are the pond and the butterfly garden, as well as access to several of the trails that lead to the farm and even all the way to the observatory.
A butterfly garden is planted with species of plants utilized by butterflies for food, protection and reproduction. Host plants are the plants eaten by the caterpillar or larva and each species of butterfly has a specific plant that the adult butterfly lays her eggs on and which the caterpillar will eat. Nectar plants provide food for the adult butterfly, as butterflies will use their proboscis to sip nectar from the flowers of the plant. The garden will also have protection from the wind, a damp spot for puddling and sunny areas to soak up the sun. It isn’t unusual to see other wildlife in the garden, such as hummingbirds and songbirds, a lizard or toad, and all sorts of insects.

tiger swallowtails are a common sight
On our visits we often utilize the covered picnic area, splash in the running “creek” and visit the frogs, turtles and fish living next door in the pond. There is usually something blooming all through spring, summer and fall, and it is hard to decide which season we prefer. Although spring is nice for lack of mosquitos, summer has the widest array of butterflies and blooms, fall brings the beauty of leaves changing color in the adjacent forest and winter has its own beauty. The Greater Greenville Master Gardeners maintain the garden, and it isn’t unusual to see someone hard at work on our visits. Kudos to them for the inspiring work they do, and thank you to the RMSC for having the garden open to non-winged creatures as well, allowing us to learn and play in such a beautiful place.

For more information on the Roper Mountain Science Center and the various programs and resources, please visit their website, http://www.ropermountain.org/

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