More Unusual Sightings at Patuxent North Tract

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.

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6 Responses to More Unusual Sightings at Patuxent North Tract

  1. Bill Harms says:

    Most of the problems you mentioned are being fixed. The signage was generic and not specific to the refuge. I am not sure what they can do about the Giant Swallowtail because of the way it was fabricated.

    Bill Harms
    Volunteer Project Leader
    North Tract Plant Inventory Project
    Patuxent Research Refuge
    Laurel, Maryland

  2. Bill Harms says:

    Next time you are out at the refuge you will see the changes.

    • Rick says:

      Thanks, Bill. Patuxent North is far and away one of the best-kept secrets for butterfly observation; we use it a lot for study and research.

  3. Bill Harms says:

    They need some help with the butterfly garden there, There are some non-native species in the garden, and we are trying to figure out which of the species that naturally occur on the refuge would be good to plant there.

    BTW, there are three species of privet on the North Tract, one of which is well-established. There at least two butterfly bushes on the North Tract. The staff likes them because they do attract butterflies and they are not out of control and spreading.

    I have only seen alfalfa in a couple of stations on the North Tract and in both cases it was barely hanging on. It would not surprise me if they were to disappear from the North Tract someday.

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