During our sojourn through Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge North Tract yesterday, Tom Stock and I made a couple of other really astonishing butterfly discoveries — giant swallowtail and bronze copper among them!
Well, actually, we “discovered” them on signage at the Tract’s butterfly garden. From a personal and professional perspective, they were very disappointing, especially from a refuge with an active butterfly and ode orientation and experienced staff. Here’s the situation.
Our first puzzle came with the large sign touting Chesapeake Bayscapes native plants at the front of the garden, where the butterfly figured (larger than life size) on the placard is identified as tiger swallowtail, a regular visitor to the garden in the summer. Except that the figure is actually of a stylized (and still somewhat inaccurate) giant swallowtail:
Imagine our further surprise when the info kiosk in the garden gave a couple of examples of common butterflies likely to be seen on the North Tract, and a big picture (correctly labeled this time) of bronze copper popped up! Dick Smith’s list of butterflies extirpated in the DC region includes bronze copper, and in fact when I picked up a copy of the Refuge’s butterfly checklist bronze copper does not appear on it.
The kiosk also has a list of “native” plants for butterfly gardens along with the admonition to only use native plants in gardening for butterflies. Among the nectar plants recommended:
Butterfly bush (Buddleia) — “native,” yes — to CHINA.
Alfalfa — native to Asia Minor
Privet — !!! an invasive species no less, native to southern and central Europe
Ice plant — native to South Africa
Luckily, the Refuge’s guide to Gardening for Butterflies doesn’t contain such howlers. Next time you stop by the North Tract or the South Tract visitor’s center, take a minute to stop by and let them know you think the signage at the butterfly garden has got to go.