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Butterfly Garden at Hagerman NWR Attracts People and Pollinators

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX is one of the many areas impacted by the intense flooding that devastated Texas and parts of Oklahoma in mid-May. The wildlife refuge is still dealing with the repercussions, one of which has been the postponement of many pre-planned events. One such event is the grand opening of a quarter-acre butterfly garden constructed by the Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, where flowers and trees were planted at the beginning of February.

85% of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is currently underwater | USFWS
85% of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was underwater at peak flooding level | Russell Daniel, USFWS

The idea for the garden came to the Friends after visiting Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, also in Texas, where they saw a butterfly garden that attracted not only pollinators, but crowds of visitors as well.

Though part of the project’s initial planning was contracted out to Texas Discovery Garden, a Dallas-based sustainability educational center, all planting was done with the elbow grease of the Friends of Hagerman. Sponsors for the garden included a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The Friends of Hagerman have already hosted several events on the refuge, with a special emphasis on engaging children. The group regularly organizes field trips consisting of different stations, each with a different learning focus – at one station the children learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. At another, they get to come face to face with butterflies that have recently hatched. If they are exceedingly lucky, the children can spot a caterpillar munching on milkweed out in the garden. The field trips give children a chance to learn about butterflies, the refuge, and general conservation, all under the disguise of fun in the outdoors.

The garden is already a big draw for the refuge, even despite the delay in its official opening. When families pull up to the refuge, kids hop out of the car and immediately run towards the garden.

Not only is the garden a peaceful place to relax, it also serves as a great learning opportunity for visitors. The garden is composed solely of native plants and acts as a microcosm of the larger refuge. It allows visitors the opportunity to see aspects of the refuge that are otherwise off the beaten path, or hidden away amongst other habitat. The plants are labeled, and visitors can check out a book in the visitor center that gives more information about each plant.

Although the last few months have been especially difficult for Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and other such lands in the American Southwest, refuge staff is determined to further the mission of the Refuge System towards educating and engaging the community.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2015/07/butterfly-garden-at-hagerman-nwr-attracts-people-and-pollinators/

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