Oregon Valley Verve | Vol. 1, No. 3 | Summer 2016

Page 36

Butterfly Beauty

A visit to the Elkton Community Education Center — and its stunning Butterfly Pavilion — delights visitors of all ages. Story and photos by Bentley Gilbert Two butterflies went out at noon And waltzed above a stream, Then stepped straight through the firmament And rested on a beam … From Emily Dickinson’s “Two Butterflies Went Out at Noon” In her poem, “Two Butterflies Went Out at Noon,” Emily Dickinson (18301886), the Belle of Amherst, America’s beloved and most eccentric and prolific poet, captured the fascination and awe we have of butterflies. The early Greeks, the Elkton Butterfly Pavilion tells us, used the word “psyche” both for “soul” and for “butterfly.” The Butterfly Pavilion is part of the Elkton Community Education Center, an independent non-profit dedicated to enriching the cultural, education and social lives of rural Oregon. It is a yearround community center and a summer tourist destination on the banks of the Umpqua River. Situated on 30 acres of a former sheep pasture in rural Douglas County, the pavilion is a wonder of “oohs” and “aahs” — but that’s not all that’s there. On the river’s edge of the property, Fort Umpqua, a replica of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s southern-most outpost, tells us about the trading and trapping and settlement that went on here from 1836 to 1851. Now exquisitely laid out, signed and maintained, the center adds to the environmental, cultural and historical understanding of this region.

Expanding the Natural Habitat

The variety, the color, the things to do and to look at captured the attention of a score or more of energetic youngsters from a pre-kindergarten classroom at


Roseburg’s Cobb Street School in late May—and it was the butterfly pavilion they went to first. The point of their outing, after all, was to release the “painted ladies” they had raised in their classroom. One by one, launched from a dozen different fingertips, the colorful, delicate, small Lepidoptera took flight within the enclosure. Volunteers Kris Hendricks, board member and education coordinator, and Barbara Slott, who styles herself the butterfly “wrangler,” had a great deal more to show how these insects thrive, travel and undergo that wondrous metamorphosis that is the four-stage life cycle unique to their order. Elkton’s Butterfly Rearing and Native Plant Project works to expand the habitat, boost survival rates and release mature butterflies into a natural environment. Executive Director Marjory Hamann tells us that as our world becomes more densely developed, the natural habitat of butterflies has diminished. The work done in Elkton is a resource for the whole region and beyond.

A Realized Dream

The Community Education Center and its butterfly pavilion were founded in 1999 by Elkton resident Carol Beckley, who had a passion for young people, for native plants and for her home. She wanted to enhance the lives of different generations of the people in and around this portion of the Umpqua River Valley. By tending, displaying and explaining the flowering beds that surround the pavilion, the Elkton Center shows us how we can become part of the threegeneration migration of monarchs and other butterflies that travel every year from such long distances as Baja California to southern British Columbia.

OregonValleyVERVE.com • SUMMER 2016

The beauty and vitality of the beds, grounds and habitat are possible because a summer youth employment program. In addition to the leadership of Hamann, her board, and enthusiastic volunteer and paid staff members, keeps them that way.

Lessons for Our Gardens

The people at the butterfly center want us to surround our homes with the environment butterflies need to feed, to rest and to hide from predators and the weather along their route. They require a place to lay eggs on the food plant their larvae, or caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and form a chrysalis or “cocoon.” When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out and, after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. The monarch butterfly, a magnificent species known to most of us, looks for nectar plants, such as the foxglove, and for milkweed as a host. Both do well in local gardens. The painted ladies that the young students brought with them look for mallow. The Elkton Center’s dynamic website shows several bed layouts we can adopt for to the space in our yards and the plants that will attract butterflies.

Beyond Butterflies

Native plants can both beautify our homes and grow a rich wildlife habitat for birds, mammals, butterflies and other insects. Oregon plants exist for nearly every garden in a great variety of flowers, foliage and fruit. Northwest plants provide an ideal refuge and source of food for birds and animals that roam and fly here. These plants survive under the seasonal conditions we see every year. Native green conifers provide a delightful mix with deciduous plants for a year-long, attractive garden. Like butterflies, birds need places feed, rest and hide from predators and weather. For our smaller avian friends, shrubs that are pruned and well-tended offer