Add a Touch of Louisiana to Your Garden

By Nova Clark, Education Specialist/Refuge Ranger at Black Bayou Lake NWR

After a pretty cold winter both people and the wildlife are looking forward to spring.  Some of the signs of spring are the emergence of flowers and the appearance of the butterflies that feed on them.

monarch butterfly, spring planting, black bayou lake, monroe louisiana
Monarch Butterfly

When you are planning your garden for this year please think about planting Louisiana native plants.  Native plants are adapted to the weather here and the pests that plague non-natives.  This means that they require less maintenance and pesticides.  Native plants also provide an essential food source for butterflies and so you get the double benefit of beautiful flowers and the chance to see butterflies and hummingbirds in your garden.  Some of the native plants include purple coneflower, Joe Pye weed, Cardinal flower, and Bee balm.

purple coneflower, louisiana native plants, black bayou lake, monroe louisiana
Purple Coneflower

Host plants for monarch butterflies include swamp milkweed, whorled milkweed, and green milkweed.  These plants are important for the larvae of the monarchs to feed on in order for them to go through the metamorphosis to become a butterfly.

monarch butterfly, swamp milkweed, milkweed, louisiana plants, black bayou lake, monroe louisiana
Monarch butterfly on Swamp Milkweed

Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are essential pollinators for many things we eat including melons, peaches, apples, and chocolate.  Think about a world without some of these foods and you can see the importance of a variety of pollinators.  In order to thrive they need native plants and plants free of pesticides.  If you come out to Black Bayou Lake NWR on a spring day the air is alive with the sounds, colors, and movements of a variety of wildlife in a natural habitat.

hummingbird, cardinal flower, louisiana plants, black bayou lake, monroe louisiana
Hummingbird with Cardinal Flowers

Compare that to the sterility of a parking lot or just a grass lawn.  As we expand our footprint on the land, having native plants in your garden provides an oasis for butterflies, birds, and other animals as they make their way to more wild places like Black Bayou Lake NWR.  They also provide us with the opportunity to connect with nature in our own backyard.

For some ideas about native plants for your garden come out to Black Bayou Lake NWR.  We will be having the ribbon cutting for our new butterfly garden during Walk with the Wildlife on March 22nd, noon – 4 PM.

Note: Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located at 480 Richland Place Road in Monroe, LA. The refuge is open during daylight hours. The Visitor Center is open weekdays from 8 am to 4 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm. 

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