Members Area

Butterfly Survey


July 15, 2021

Planting Native Plants, Trees, and Shrubs

Since the spring of 2020, The Planters, a GCA member club in Bryn Mawr, PA, has worked with Stoneleigh Natural Garden on a butterfly survey. Results from the ongoing survey will help the garden planners have a better understanding about which native plants attract which species of butterflies and where best to plant the natives in the garden.

Located in Villanova, PA, Stoneleigh is a natural garden. In an effort to protect the land, the garden was donated to Natural Lands in 2016 by the Haas family. Today, Stoneleigh is a stunning reflection of more than a century of loving care by three different families and has become a showcase for blending the aesthetic beauty of designed gardens with the natural richness of native habitats that are essential to the health of our planet. 

The idea for the butterfly survey began in 2019 when The Planters president found herself seated next to Ethan Kaufmann, director of Stoneleigh, during a zone meeting. She was exploring ideas for a new Planters club project and Kaufmann was looking for volunteers to propel a propagation initiative. A few months later in early 2020, following a meeting with Stoneleigh horticulturist Samantha Nestory, the butterfly survey came to fruition. 

Masked-up during the 2020 season, Planters teams of three members each conducted surveys every other week at five different sites in the Stoneleigh Garden. Twenty-five species of butterflies were identified as they flitted and sucked nectar from host perennial native plants. Listings were made of which host plants, shrubs, and trees were selected by each butterfly species. The sites were ranked by how many, and which species of butterflies were attracted to each area. Weather conditions and the time of day were also noted.

During the 2020-2021 off-season, the club’s conservation chairs met with Nestory to refine the project for its second year. As with the first year, Ms. Nestory conducted a butterfly workshop to teach Planters how to identify butterfly species by size, color, and flying habits. She also developed a laminated “Butterfly Cheat Sheet.”

This year, the survey began in mid-April and will continue through the end of October. There will be fifteen survey days when three Planters members will visit each of the sites for ten minutes. The objective for 2021 is to supplement the 2020 findings so that Stoneleigh can continue to make informed decisions on where to plant specific native plants, shrubs, and trees in the garden. A sixth survey site at Stoneleigh’s new Pavilion area will soon be added.

Stoneleigh and The Planters believe that they have formed a long-term relationship. Over time, Stoneleigh will be able to monitor the biodiversity in terms of the richness of the butterfly species and the abundance of each species. The Planters members see many possibilities to expand this collaborative effort, including education projects within the community.




See All News