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Hammock Park in Dunedin adds butterfly garden

DUNEDIN

Pet a caterpillar, stock up on butterfly plants and enjoy some fancy flying at the new butterfly garden inside the main entrance of Hammock Park, next to the historic Andrews Memorial Chapel.

The flowering sanctuary for the winged wonders features 11 landscape beds brimming with 225 native nectar and host plants in 40 varieties.

A grand opening ceremony takes place Saturday between 9 and 11 a.m., rain or shine, and includes a butterfly release, children's activities and a talk by Tim Adams of the North American Butterfly Association.

"We hope everyone will come out and learn more about butterflies and native plants," said Theresa Polgar, 45, who spearheaded the project along with her husband, James, 51.

"Get the children out in nature and away from the video games. Hopefully, we'll help to nurture a new generation of nature and butterfly enthusiasts."

Just like her and her husband.

The Polgars' Dunedin home is surrounded by more than 100 butterfly-attracting plants the couple began installing six years ago, she said.

About two years ago, they were approached by the Friends of Hammock Park, the park's nonprofit support group, to lead the habitat effort.

The couple designed the garden, drafted a budget, raised funds, selected the plants and oversaw the installation by members of Boy Scout Troop 422, led by Sean Deeb, now an Eagle Scout.

The Friends organization, along with individual members, donated about $9,500 to finance the project.

Green features include recycled plastic timbers that surround each bed, low-flow irrigation with reclaimed water, and permeable sea shell pathways for adequate drainage.

The garden has been certified as an Official Butterfly Sanctuary by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and has received additional nods of approval from the National Wildlife Federation and the North American Butterfly Association.

The grand opening celebration begins at 9 a.m. with children's activities (crafts and caterpillar petting station) and a T-shirt and plant sale. Adams will speak at 10 a.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Mayor Dave Eggers will follow.

Hammock Park, a 90-acre preserve, is home to more than 35 species of the graceful insects.

On Tuesday, skippers, swallowtails, sulphurs and others were making good of the short time they had left on Earth — adult butterflies in general have about a month to live.

They dined on the nectar of flowering milkweed, pineland lantana, dotted horsemint and pentas.

They laid eggs on host plants like blue and purple passion flowers climbing up trellises.

Beware of the red variety, though, cautioned Polgar.

"It can be toxic to the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars that would use this plant as a host," she said.

If you go

Grand opening

When: Saturday, 9 to 11 a.m.

Where: Hammock Park, 1900 San Mateo Drive, Dunedin

For more information: Visit hammockpark.org or call Theresa Polgar at (727) 698-1133.

Hammock Park in Dunedin adds butterfly garden 09/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 9:14pm]
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