A butterfly enthusiast from New Zealand was attracted to the Salem Museum’s Monarch Butterfly Waystation last week, and discovered butterfly larvae already feasting on milkweed planted by the Salem Garden Club.
Jacqui Knight, who is known as Madam Butterfly in her home country when she gives talks, visited the garden with Ellen and Roger Holtman of Salem on May 1. Ellen Holtman is a retired biology professor at Virginia Western Community College and Master Gardener. She is the one who coordinated planting butterfly-attracting flowers at the Salem Museum and applied for the waystation certification.
“She was delightful, and the most enthusiastic Monarch fan I have met,” Ellen said. “She has been to Mexico where Monarchs congregate in the winter.”
Knight founded the New Zealand Trust for Moths and Butterflies, and was visiting the United States on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust grant to see what is being done for butterflies along their migration route, Ellen explained.
The two got together after Salem Garden Club President Betsy Freund recommended the club’s waystation project at the museum, and suggested she meet with Ellen. “Our Blue Ridge District of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs recently was asked for recommendations of Monarch Waystations for Jacqui Knight. She was going to drive from Washington, D.C., to Charlottesville to Roanoke then Bristol and beyond,” Freund said.
On May 1, the Holtmans and Salem Museum Director Fran Ferguson checked out the museum’s waystation, and found Monarch butterfly caterpillars on the swamp milkweed and butterfly milkweed the garden club planted in front of the museum last summer.
This is the first year for the fledgling waystation, and the Holtmans, Knight and Ferguson were all thrilled to see the caterpillars which later will become orange-and-black butterflies who migrate to Mexico and whose offspring may return to Salem next spring.
“I’m told this is too early for these caterpillars to have hatched from this year’s eggs, so they must have wintered over as eggs laid last fall,” Ellen said.
Afterwards, the Holtmans, Knight and Ferguson had lunch at the new White Oak Tea Tavern on its first day open in Salem in the historic Preston Place house owned by the museum. Then Knight headed west to the Hahn Garden at Virginia Tech, and on to more gardens in West Virginia, Ellen said. Knight lives in Blockhouse Bay, Auckland.
The day before, “We visited the Blue Ridge Wildflower Society’s Monarch garden at the Roanoke Council of Garden Clubs,” Ellen said, “the wildflower garden on Mill Mountain, the Community Garden at Virginia Western and finally the Science Museum’s Butterfly exhibit.” She added Knight was “up for everything.”
Knight explained that Monarch butterflies made their way to New Zealand “flying or being blown there in the 1800s. “They happened to have a milkweed that had been brought there from Africa.” She added New Zealand has a “thriving population but they don’t migrate” as they do in the United States.