The Butterfly Effect

Gardens are conservation havens for these important insects.

Story: Paula F. Howard // Photos: Anthony Rao

Have you ever met a butterfly you didn’t like? Probably not. 

The colorful butterfly is both predator and prey while being responsible for pollinating nearly 75 percent of the crops in the world.

Among the beautiful butterfly gardens in Lake County is the Fred Funk Butterfly Garden in Lady Lake. Enclosed in a hothouse, this plant demonstration garden features plants that grow well in Florida’s climate and attract butterflies from the Central Florida area. Fred Funk was founder of The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club (TVBGC), and according to the website often said, “Butterflies. You can’t touch them, but they will touch your heart.”

There are actually nine gardens in the hothouse that are grown for various butterfly families. The Seventh Day Adventist Church, where the house is located, works in partnership with The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club on the project. This public garden has a purpose: it’s a gift for all to enjoy the serenity and peace butterflies bring to the environment. Visitors can see more than 200 species of plants, some of which they may want to put in their home gardens.

An important source of food for bats and birds, butterflies help control the environment by eating pests and pollinating crops and flowers, says butterfly-conservation.org. Areas rich in butterflies have healthy environments and ecosystems.

Some 250,000 species of butterflies and moths have lived on Earth for at least 50 million years, according to techtimes.com. Our food chain wouldn’t survive without them.

Recently, some butterfly species have faced extinction, such as the lovely monarch butterfly, which is suffering a long-term population decline, techtimes.com reports. If not checked, this trend could lean toward an 11 to 57 percent chance of the monarch becoming quasi-extinct in as little as two decades. Without these pollinators, apples, coffee, even chocolate foods could become affected.

Many people know milkweed is the monarch butterfly’s host plant, and various species of the milkweed grow in this area. It also attracts the cousins of the monarch, the queen and prince butterflies and along the fence, zebra longwings and gulf fritillaries that appreciate the passionflower vines.

Butterflies like bright flowers and feed on their nectar. During their eating, butterfly bodies collect pollen and carry it elsewhere, according to environment.sa.gov.au/goodliving. This helps vegetable gardens and flower gardens. Their natural enemies are birds, spiders, lizards, and mice. Caterpillars are also eaten by small animals before they can even become butterflies.

The Fred Funk Butterfly Garden is a great place to spend a sunny morning or afternoon enjoying butterflies (and probably a few hummingbirds). Free and open to the public 24/7, the garden is located on the grounds of the church at 231 Lake Griffin Road in Lady Lake. It’s important to note that volunteers are needed to keep the gardens in their highest beauty. One group meets 9-10am on Sunday, and other groups meet during the week. Groups can also adopt a flower bed so you are responsible for keeping it healthy and beautiful. For more information, use tvbgclub@gmail.com to send an email.

The Villages Butterfly Gardens Club meets from 1:15-3:15pm the third Friday of every month at Fish Hawk Village Recreation Center, 2318 Buttonwood Run. Members range from master gardeners to picture-book beginners. Club members maintain demonstration gardens, share experiences, and present speakers to the group. Alycyn Culbertson can be reached at 303.847.8771 for more information. 


TVBGC Tours:

Tours of the Fred Funk Butterfly Garden are offered for groups of 10 or more. They are 45-minute, in-depth tours to provide knowledge of butterflies and the plants they prefer. In the garden, 35 butterfly species have been identified. This is a perfect trip for students, clubs, neighborhood groups, or gardeners. Contact tvbgclub@gmail.com to set up a tour.

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