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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Discovery Gardens Supports Local Pollinators

The Rosine Smith Sammons Tropical Butterfly House manages more than seven acres of outdoor gardens to support the local ecosystem, including a wide variety of pollinators such as butterflies, moths, skippers, hummingbirds, bumblebees, beetles, wasps and flies. They leave some stems standing untrimmed and lots of leaf litter on the planted beds. These areas provide tiny overwintering homes for many beneficial insects, especially native bees. Some butterflies, such as red-banded hairstreaks, lay eggs on fallen leaves of oak, wax myrtle and sumac plants.

As the weather warms, plants begin to send out leaves, which is the preferred food for most caterpillars. Monarchs butterflies are very picky eaters, while others will eat almost any plant. Local insects and birds have adapted to their timing of leaf and flower plants found historically in the local ecological Blackland Prairie region.

In early spring, the first flowers begin to appear and provide nectar to hungry pollinators. Night-feeding moths need flowers that produce nectar at night, tiny insects need tiny flowers, and larger butterflies and hummingbirds need much bigger flowers. Hummingbirds generally arrive around the end of March, and there is a whole section of the garden ready to provide nectar as they travel north. Pollinator visitors continue until the weather cools in the fall, and the most spectacular show is often during the middle of October, when monarchs visit to feed on fall-blooming flowers before heading south to Mexico for the winter.

The growth of towns and cities grow can mean a loss of habitat for pollinators. Indigenous plants are crowded out by invasives and less area is available for a mix of plants when land is converted to lawn. Just one planter on an apartment balcony will provide nectar to insects. A large planter with a climbing honeysuckle can attract hungry hummingbirds. A larger garden can provide a whole pollinator habitat. Here are a few tips.

Avoid pesticides: Predator insects can keep the cycle in check. When aphids overwhelm milkweed plants, knock them off with a stream of water.

Leave the leaves and stems: They provide needed habitat for many creatures, including pollinators.

Plant a wide range of native plants in a garden: Include host plants, which are eaten by caterpillars, along with nectar plants.

Allow for differing plant heights: Butterflies like to shelter from strong winds, and the taller plants can help.

Texas Discovery Gardens is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Dallas. For more information, Call 214-428-7476 or visit