In 2018, San Antonio celebrated its Tricentennial birthday. To mark the occasion the Texas Butterfly Ranch worked with community collaborators to launch an initiative to plant 300 pollinator habitats in honor of the Alamo City’s 300th birthday. We called it 300for300.
Why? Because the butterflies, bees, bats and birds that make one of every three bites of our food possible are under siege. Habitat loss, pesticide abuse, and climate change are creating a wicked storm of obstacles that prevent them from thriving.
Also, our Mayor Ron Nirenberg had pledged to execute a community wide pollinator garden initiative when he recommitted to the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge in 2017. And we felt obliged to help him live up to his words.
How to do it? With 10 city council districts representing its 1.5 million residents, we figured if each district could plant 30 pollinator habitats, and we’d hit 300 in no time. By December 31, 2018, we had 325 gardens pledged–almost 10 percent above our goal. To date, we have more than 424 gardens pledged and have rejiggered our ambitions to reach 500 habitats by 2020.
Check out the map of our pollinator gardens above, which we update monthly.
A pollinator habitat initiative makes sense for San Antonio. We’re the top tourism destination in Texas. Recently, we were also named one of the top culinary/food destinations in the country. Why wouldn’t we support the insects and other wildlife that provide more than $20 billion a year in free ecosystem services that make our fine wining and dining affordable?
In San Antonio, we’re also famous for our hospitality. So let’s extend a warm welcome to the pollinators that live among us and seasonally pass through the “Texas Funnel” each year. Together, we can create an environment for pollinators to rest, refuel, and reproduce.
Wildlife friendly habitats can be beautiful and low maintenance, once established. They save water and don’t need pesticides. You can grow one in your front or back yard, carve a pocket prairie out of your lawn, or transform a whisky barrel or large pot into a pitstop for pollinators. Size is not as important as plant diversity, seasonal blooms and host plants that keep pollinators thriving.
Minimum requirements for a pollinator habitat:
- At least six different native and/or well adapted, noninvasive plants, including
- At least two larval host plants (the plants on which butterflies lay their eggs)
- At least two spring nectar plants (plants that bloom in the spring, providing energy/fuel)
- At least two autumn nectar plants (plants that bloom in the fall, providing energy/fuel)
- A diverse mix of spring, summer and fall blooms.
We also strongly encourage:
- NO pesticides* in your habitat
- Mulching the garden or installing dense plugs of plants to choke out undesirable weeds and conserve moisture
- If using the non-native Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) follow best practice and cut it back in late summer to keep migrating monarch butterflies moving and avoid possible disease build-up
- Have a recessed area where water can puddle so butterflies can hydrate and take up necessary nutrients, and
- Consider dead plants and spent seed heads as overwintering shelters for moths, butterflies, and other wildlife. Chop them down in late winter/early spring after you’ve inspected them for eggs, cocoons and other signs of life.
Pollinator habitat yard signs now available for purchase! Check out the signs in our shop.
We join the bees, butterflies, bats, birds and beetles in thanking you for your commitment to help pollinators. And gracias to our community collaborators for helping us pollinate this idea: HEB, GardenStyleSA.com, a project of the San Antonio Water System, Native Plant Society of Texas, Bexar County Master Gardeners, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio River Authority and Green Spaces Alliance.
This initiative is a work-in-progress and we welcome your input. Feel free to leave a comment below to recommend other resources or ask for help. We’re planning to map the gardens around the city, which is why we ask for your address when you sign up. So please join us at the link above and help us track our progress. Yard signs coming soon.
*KNOW YOUR GROWERS! Ask the plant seller: Have these plants been treated with systemic pesticides? Systemic pesticides can linger in plant biomass for months and when consumed by caterpillars (future butterflies and moths), will kill the creatures. Read more here.