by Don Culwell
Photos by botanist Brent Baker of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Milkweed plants will soon be planted as part of the habitat at South Fork.
Beautiful, OH, YES! Certainly for my eye to behold. But food? Not in MY salad, but for a butterfly they are quite the meal…yes!
South Fork habitat restored? Yes, the nearly 10 acres of glade on the South Fork grounds are close to having many of the trees removed, removed to enable light to reach the shallow glade soils where there lies a myriad of seeds ready to germinate under the right environmental conditions. Light on the soil will allow these seeds to break dormancy sending up the young plants of flowers and grasses that usually grow in such areas, areas that are often quite wet from spring rains but tend to dry out during the summer months…what a flower garden we can observe then! Since cedar trees are a species that also grows well in this habitat, many cedar saplings, and a few large, old ones of considerable age, have developed into a forest on this ground that has not recently experienced the low light requirement for typical glade development.
Restoration of the South Fork glades has been possible due to a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This restoration, or clearing of some of the forest from glade areas, began in November of 2012 and is being completed now in 2015…open soils of our glades will be able to grow the flower and grass flora that we are seeking. Glade flowers are attractive to butterflies which we may see in larger numbers. Other grant monies from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been granted South Fork to plant several species of milkweeds that will enhance the glade habitat for monarch butterflies (which have a special attraction to milkweeds)…in fact, 500 or more live plants of several milkweed species are on order, and are now being grown, for planting either this spring or early in the fall.
Drawn to milkweed flowers, monarchs will lay their eggs on the plants. Eggs will hatch, larvae will grow into mature caterpillars, produce their pupal stage, and in due time of development, each will hatch out of its chrysalis as a mature adult capable of laying more eggs…so goes the life cycle of the monarch. And it can all occur in the glades of South Fork!