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Butterfly and Pollinator Garden

A Safe Haven for our Garden

Since 2004, a Butterfly and Pollinator Garden not only added beauty to the grounds of the Museum, it also sustained butterflies, bees and other pollinators with a variety of native plants.

However, the garden was in the path of construction for the new U-M Biological Science Building (BSB) — the future home of the Museum. In the spring of 2017, our master gardener, Mary Duff-Silverman, Museum staff and volunteers, and a U-M Grounds crew “deconstructed the garden” and hauled three truckloads of plants over to Washtenaw County’s County Farm Park where they were planted in a beautiful plot near Project Grow’s community gardens. The plants will be returned to the Museum when the new BSB garden space is ready.

More than 40 native perennials were relocated, including: Joe Pye Weed, a variety of Milkweeds and Asters, Wild Geranium, Coreopsis, Goldenrod, Wild Bergamot, Coneflower, and Black Eyed Susan. In addition, several lovely shrubs were saved, including New Jersey Tea, Rose Mallow, Butterfly Honeysuckle, Kalm’s St. John’s Wort, and Button Bush.

For draft inventory of plants in the garden, click here.

Mary Duff-Silverman is always happy to welcome more volunteers. For more information, email Mary at


About Pollinators

Pollinators are all the animals that move between plants searching for protein-rich pollen or high energy nectar to eat.  They include bees, butterflies, moths, as well as other insects. Some birds (such as hummingbirds) and bats are also excellent pollinators. As pollinators move from flower to flower, they are dusted with pollen and transfer it to the next flower, making it possible for the plants to reproduce, forming seeds, berries, fruits, and other plant foods. Pollinators play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of approximately 75% of all fruits and vegetables.

So pollinators are a key link in the the food chain for many species, including humans. Pollinators are themselves important food sources for wildlife. Many birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians rely on the insect larvae or adult forms of pollinators as food for themselves and their offspring. If we want to enjoy our native birds, we need to support the pollinators.

About Pollinator Gardens

A pollinator garden consists of diverse plants that provide food and habitat for a wide range of pollinators. In addition to offering food for adult pollinators, a pollinator garden should offer “larval host” plants. These are plants that butterflies, moths, and other insects seek out specifically to lay their eggs and nourish the emerging caterpillars. Many butterflies are specialists, requiring certain plants to reproduce. A striking example is the Monarch Butterfly which will only lay her eggs on native milkweeds.


About Native Plants

A productive pollinator garden may include both native and non-native plants. Non-native plants, originally imported from other countries, may offer pollen and nectar enjoyed by many bees and other insects. But non-native plants cannot “host” an insect trying to reproduce and complete its life cycle. Native plants are plants that occur naturally in a particular region, without human intervention. They have evolved for thousands of years with the insects and wildlife of that region and have formed important relationships. 

Native plants should be welcomed by all gardeners! They are easy to grow, tough and resilient, need less water, do not need fertilizers or pesticides and offer year-round interest. They improve the soil and water quality by naturally retaining and filtering rain run-off. Native plants offer many beautiful species in a wide range of color, size, and texture. Native plants are a win-win proposition for all!

Garden as Shelter

In addition to food and hosting plants, a healthy pollinator garden offers a source of water, shelter from wind and weather, and nesting spots for ground dwelling native bees. The ideal pollinator garden is a little untidy, offering some dead leaves and old plant stems for cavity dwelling bees, overwintering moths and butterflies.  Leaving spent flower heads in the garden also provides seeds for birds and mammals to sustain them through winter. Finally, to protect all visitors, pesticides are never used in a pollinator garden.

Support a Pollinator Garden!

Pollinator populations worldwide are in decline because of habitat loss (due to land development and introduction of invasive non-native plants), the misuse of pesticides and other chemicals, pollution, disease, and changes in climatic patterns. A healthy and diverse pollinator population is vital to our ecosystem’s health. All of us can make a difference by supporting a local pollinator patch, or by planting a native plant and using less pesticide in our own gardens. We can all help bring back the pollinators and also enjoy a beautiful garden at the same time!