When visitors want to admire colorful blooms in Central Park, many head to Conservatory or Shakespeare gardens – both beautiful spots for quiet strolls and reflection. But there are also several "secret" gardens worth a visit, smaller planting sites created just to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects.
The North Meadow alone has five such colorful planting beds that are at their most vibrant in July and August, and attract as many visitors as they do species of beautiful butterflies.
Though the scented purple or white blooms on the non-native butterfly bush are common to almost all butterfly gardens, "they only provide nectar to feed mature butterflies," says John-Paul Catusco, the Conservancy's Supervisor of the Ramble.
"They don't provide a hosting site for butterfly eggs and larvae, like our native Milkweeds," he says, "which are planted for that purpose in the wildflower meadow across the 102nd Street drive from the North Meadow sites."
Both the butterflies and the plants that attract them have colorful names.
The most frequently planted flowers in the Park are: cardinal flower, bee balm, boneset, purple coneflower, smooth blue aster, New York ironweed, rose mallow, Joe-Pye weed, and mountain mint.
Butterflies sighted in the Park include: question mark, zabulon skipper, red admiral, silver-spotted skipper, summer azure, banded hairstreak, American lady, mourning cloak, eastern comma, pearl crescent, spicebush swallowtail and peck’s skipper.
And while no one to date can agree on why these wonderful insects were named "butterflies" — buttorfleoge in old English — the one thing all experts can agree on is that it probably has nothing to do with butter.