It doesn’t look like much now—just
a small, roughly 300-square-foot, roped-off plot of dirt behind
the Math & Science Center populated by a few ankle- and knee-high
plants and recently bloomed flowers—but give it a little time
and Emory’s first butterfly garden will be teeming with the
attractive winged creatures.
The butterfly garden is the first creation of the Emory Garden Club,
a campus grassroots organization (pardon the pun) that aims to promote
and sustain the University’s environment. Begun almost three
years ago over a restaurant conversation among friends with a common
interest in gardening, the club has steadily evolved into an increasingly
active organization in Emory’s prominent environmental community.
For more than a year, the friends, including Annie Carey of Emory
College, Hope Payne from environmental studies and Barbara Brandt
of the Informa-tion Technology Division, would meet for their monthly
luncheon and discuss their gardens. Slowly, others joined them.
Now the club boasts a listserv of almost 50 people.
“Some have absolutely wonderful gardens; some don’t
have a garden at all, “ said Carey, facilities coordinator
for the college. “It’s an interesting group. We have
a hodgepodge of people.”
After their casual beginning, last winter the club got serious.
They wanted to make a definitive contribution to the community,
despite the fact that the club received no money from the University
and relied solely on the spirit—and wallets—of its members.
“We wanted to do something at Emory to show our love of plants
and of nature and the environment, and to try and protect it as
much as we can,” said Payne, office manager for environmental
The club decided to create a butterfly garden. Payne, Carey and
fellow club member John Wegner of environmental studies met with
Jimmy Powell and James Johnson of Facilities Management, and they
decided the garden could be developed in the forested area behind
the Math & Science Center.
The garden was planted the first week of May. Its plants and flowers
were chosen specifically to appeal to butterflies. Butterflies lay
their eggs on milkweed, and they like to eat flowers such as hollyhock,
lantana, purple cornflower, black-eyed susans and butterfly bushes
as well as herbs like parsley—which also has been planted.
Next to the garden is a small plot of wildflowers that has yet to
The garden’s floral inhabitants came from a variety of sources.
Some were donated by club members, others from the environmental
studies department and still others came free of charge from area
Not only is the garden an aesthetic attraction, but it serves an
academic purpose as well. The research of Sonia Altizer, assistant
professor of environmental studies, compares monarch butterflies
from across North America and can play a role in the garden’s
“Every fall, monarchs migrate through Georgia on their way
back to Mexico, and as they migrate, they stop along the way at
gardens such as this one,” Altizer said. “This garden
will be used to study what we call the ‘stopover ecology’
of monarch migration in this geographic area.”
The plan is to have students monitor the garden, capture, then release
the monarchs and other butterflies that visit it. Later this summer,
monarch butterflies bred in Altizer’s laboratory on the fifth
floor of the Math & Science Center and a Emerson Hall greenhouse
on the Michael St. deck will be released into the garden, becoming
its first residents.
Placing the site behind the Math & Science Center was no accident.
Butterflies need a wooded, shaded place to thrive, Payne said. The
proximity of Altizer’s laboratory played a role as well. Because
of this spring’s heavy rains, the plants have grown slowly,
but with summer’s onset they soon should be thriving. With
a bench just a couple steps away from the garden, it promises to
be a perfect place to relax.
“Once the garden gets established and is a place for them
to eat, the butterflies should stick around,” Payne said.
Only in winter would the garden not be populated with butterflies.
The butterfly garden doesn’t complete the club’s work.
In fact, it is just getting started. Its next goal is to renovate
the Spring House, located in the forest behind the Houston Mill
House. The stone structure once was used to keep perishable foods
cool before the house had refrigerators. Now the Spring House and
surrounding area has become overgrown, and the club intends to work
on restoring it. The project was suggested by the Ad Hoc Committee
on Environmental Stewardship, which shares some members with the
garden club. Payne said that work could begin in the fall.
Other plans for the future include planting native wildflowers on
campus, organizing plant exchanges and planting more campus butterfly
gardens. Another future plan, Carey said, is one day acquiring an
“There is only so far that donations will go,” she said.
The garden club is open to all members of the Emory community. For
more information, contact Payne at 404-727-4216.