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Everything in Cayman’s ecosystem has a valuable role to play, and when it comes to the vital process of pollination, Butterflies have a role second only to bees. They visit flowers frequently, and of course they also like to lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. Cayman Turtle Centre’s Butterfly Garden has been moved away from its original place, well-hidden in the winding track of the Blue Hole Nature Trail, where it was getting too dark for the flowering plants which butterflies love. Then, a year and a half ago, it was moved to a brand new, sunny location by the Aviary, but this too had problems, because although the herbaceous flowers that were originally used attracted a lot of butterflies at first, after a while the garden got overgrown and the butterflies stopped coming.
Now the garden has been completely re-made, and, with advice from….a butterfly plant expert from Cayman’s Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, filled mostly with woody perennial plants which just have to be trimmed and are much easier to maintain.
The original Butterfly Garden worked out really well. The only thing we didn’t realize was that using wild flowers – herbaceous plants, was they began to proliferate, they overgrew and choked themselves out. When the rains came, they started reproducing themselves really quickly, and you end up with a tangled mess of plants. When they choke themselves like that they don’t flower so well, because they’re too crowded, and also it doesn’t look good. So we found Joanne Mercille, a consultant from the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, who had worked on their butterfly garden, and she helped us redesign our garden using woody, instead of herbaceous plants.
The new woody will be supplemented, later on, with some easy-to-maintain ground cover herbaceous plants, so that the whole garden will be full of beautiful flowers, as well as the kind of plants which have caterpillar-friendly leaves, as well.
Each of the new plants has been specially chosen for a particular kind of butterfly or caterpillar, Mr. Geddes explained: “The cat bush has yellow flowers that supplies the Fritillaries (small orange butterflies) and they both feed on it as well as lay their eggs. Wild Rosemary is good for the Cuban Red Butterfly to lays its eggs on, and the Lantana is a kind of all-purpose feeder.
Recently, there was a large number of chrysalis’ from the larvae of Queen butterflies on the Giant Milkweed plant, which was not actually inside the Butterfly Garden, but nearby, along the Cayman Street part of the park. “The butterflies are called queens because there is a very fine gold ring – like a crown, on the top of the chrysalis,” Mr. Geddes said.