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Native Butterfly House to Be Dedicated


Dedication of New Native Mountain Mermaid Butterfly House and Native Butterfly Plant Nursery October 7:

With shimmering transparent walls, graceful rooflines, and reclaimed antique entry doors, someone said the structure looked more like a glass chapel than a greenhouse. You can judge for yourself at the day-long opening of the newly completed Mountain Mermaid Native Butterfly House and Nursery on October 7. A big selection of pesticide-free native butterfly host and nectar plants will be offered for sale.

Made of wood, clear polycarbonate sheathing, and shade cloth, the rustic conservatory will contain 400 or so individually potted native butterfly plants and dozens of live native butterflies. If you include the plants displayed outside, there will be upwards of 1,000 butterfly host and nectar plants for sale. These are not the typical plants that you find at most nurseries tainted with pesticides which can harm and kill butterflies. The Mermaid butterfly plants are drought tolerant, poison-free native plants that will support native butterflies, birds and other wildlife, and help to restore a vibrant sustainable ecosystem in your garden.

What’s the difference between a butterfly “host” plant and a butterfly “nectar” plant? Butterflies have four distinct life stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and winged adult. Adult butterflies are super specialized about where they lay their eggs. Monarch females, for example, will only lay on milkweed, which is called their “host”, or larval food plant. When the Monarch caterpillars hatch from the eggs, milkweed is the only plant they have evolved over millennia to eat. They incorporate the foul tasting toxic milkweed sap into their tissues as a defense against predators. On the other hand, butterflies in the adult stage of their life cycle are not that picky about what plants they will drink from for food They sip sweet nectar through long feeding tubes from the flowers of many different species, that are called butterfly “nectar” plants. Host plants provide food for caterpillars, nectar plants provide liquid food for adult butterflies.

Serious butterfly gardeners must have both host and nectar plants, but the key is to have lots of host plants. They are the plants that attract in the females that deposit their eggs and establish a home base in your garden for butterflies to live out all four of their life stages.

Mermaid proprietor Bill Buerge will be on site to answer questions about the Mermaid’s butterfly gardens. He says don’t be disappointed if you don’t see lots of flying butterflies in the garden since October is at the end of the annual spring-summer butterfly season.

Sergio Jimenez, the Mermaid’s resident butterfly whisperer, along with wife Yaotl, and daughter Luna, will be on hand to handle sales and answer questions. Sergio is in charge of butterfly plant propagation at the Mermaid, and is a guiding force in the butterfly house and nursery.

Another thing Bill urges is to get over having perfect looking plants. In fact, one sign of a successful native garden is that there are lots of partially eaten leaves evidencing the presence of caterpillars and other insects. Lizards, frogs, and birds all heavily depend on insects for food. If you want to populate your gardens with beautiful birds and birdsong and chortling frogs, plant native plants. Native plants and insects are at the lower rungs of the food chain and fundamentally essential to a healthy and thriving native ecosystem.

At 2p.m., the immensely talented singer-songwriter and dancer, Donna DeLory, will conduct a sing-along in the Mermaid’s great room. Donna toured with Madonna for ten years as one of her two lead backing singers. This time she will be performing with students from Topanga Elementary and Manzanita schools singing butterfly-inspired songs that she composed.

Representatives from various nature-based organizations will have tables stationed around the property eager to answer your questions and provide literature. Gail McDonald-Tune will represent the Topanga Watershed Committee. Georgia Goldfarb will be there representing the Malibu Monarch Project.

Mermaid Nextdoor neighbor, Clare Brown has generously offered her flat acreage for overflow parking.

- WHERE: The Mountain Mermaid, 20421 Callon Drive, Topanga, CA 90290
- WHEN: October 7, 10 am to 6pm
- PARKING: DO NOT PARK ON THE STREETS! Park off-street at the Mermaid or next door at Clare’s property just before you get to the Mermaid. Parking attendants and signage will help direct you.
- RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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