Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Butterfly Gardens for Wildlife Wednesday November 2019

It's Wildlife Wednesday and I'm bending the rules just a bit to go outside my own garden and bring you along on my garden club visit to The Butterfly Learning Center at Hardberger Park in north San Antonio.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My Gardener Says..."

Designed by Drake White of The Nectar Bar for San Antonio's Hardberger Park it's designed to highlight "mostly" native plants that support butterflies.  Drake shared her extensive knowledge of how to support butterflies in our gardens.  One of the most important things I learned was that a caterpillar inching along on the ground knows where it is going and it's best not help them out.

It's a teaching garden designed for hosting butterflies.  Red flags indicate dormant plants and remind volunteers not to dig in those spots.

So where's the wildlife?  Drake holds up a Monarch caterpillar.  Monarchs generally make their fall migration without breeding but a few do stop and breed in our area.   Love her shirt!

Close up.

Butterflies need both nectar and host plants.  Plants in the garden are labeled with names of the plants and butterflies they host or provide nectar for.  I need this false mint in my garden!  Pretty purple blooms in the fall and nice, upright foliage.

A butterfly shaped garden but where are the plants?

No plants because it's a puddle garden.  "Puddling" is just what it sounds like and provides butterflies with moisture and minerals they need.

Drake checks seeds on a Swallowtail pipevine.  It's a difficult plant to spot because it disguises itself as grass.  I couldn't even find a definitive botanical name on this one though it grows naturally in Central Texas and I have seen it in my yard from time to time.  She has placed a net bag over the flower to collect seeds.  The seeds take two years to germinate.

We were mesmerized by the massive Passiflora vine taking over the fences.  It's Passiflora incarnata x cincinnata which is not native to San Antonio though it grows beautifully here.  Good to know because when the caterpillars are out they can decimate a pretty good supply of vines.

A beautiful host for several butterflies.

The Butterfly Learning Center is open by appointment only.  Contact The Nectar Bar for more information.

There are two additional butterfly gardens at Hardberger Park you can visit any time the park is open.  One is in front of the main park building off Blanco Road and the other is near the Urban Ecology Center which is where we are headed next.

Beautifully designed and maintained by Alamo Area Master Naturalists.

Maximilian Sunflowers are good for butterflies, bees, and birds.  The fence keeps out deer but not people since the gate is unlocked when the park is open.

I was captivated by all the Texas Broomweed (Amphiachyris amoena) in the garden.  It's so light and airy and covered with tiny yellow blooms.  I found a place to collect seeds in a field near my house.  Most of the information out there focuses on how farmers and ranchers can get rid of it so I might think twice before planting.  It provides good winter cover for birds among other benefits.

While there were plenty of bees and butterflies in the gardens we visited I found it a challenge to photograph them with a group.  That means we've only had one wildlife photo of a caterpillar so far. To finish up I'll borrow a Monarch butterfly photo from a visit to my friend Melody's garden the next day.

There, that's so much better than posting one photo of an anole on a screen which is all I found in my October photos.  Maybe I'll save that beauty for another time.

Be sure to check out Tina's blog for more Wildlife Wednesday


  1. Great post, Shirley--what an asset for San Antonio. I love that puddling "butterfly"--so cute. That's something I haven't been good about providing for my butterfly visitors--I should rectify that.

  2. I think your post is definitely in the spirit of Wildlife Wednesday! I need to find somewhere to set up a puddling station for butterflies here. I haven't had much success with passionflower vines in this garden but I keep trying - they were a big hit with the Gulf Fritillary butterflies in my former garden.

  3. Do tell - the caterpillars inching along the ground?? I rescue them as I'm afraid they will get trodden on when they are on our paving.

    African monarch in my garden and Christmas butterflies appearing.

    1. Moving them when in danger is a good idea. If they are trying to molt or find the right place to molt then our interference could stop that process by removing a film of hormone they excrete. The caterpillar will likely not progress to the next stage. Same if they are looking for a place to form a chrysalis. It's okay when they are seeking food. Since I'm not sure how to determine what the cat is up to I'll avoid helping unless they are in danger as you mention.


Thank you for stopping by. To comment simply open the Name/URL option, put in your name or initials and skip the URL.