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DIRT THERAPY By Marianne Taylor
DIRT THERAPY By Marianne Taylor

By Marianne Taylor

On any given hot summer day, the colorful native gardens at the Montanez Adobe in Los Rios Park are the headquarters to flittering beneficial pollinators, soaking up the rays and drinking nectar from the flowers.

As you meander through the pathways, you will be greeted by a variety of local Orange County butterflies that have made their way to a new home at the park. Thanks to the dedicated Los Rios Park Garden Angel volunteers, an organization started in 2009, they have tended to the habitats every Thursday morning while caring and maintaining the thriving gardens.

Sadly, butterfly populations are on the decline worldwide due to many reasons, some to loss of habitats and most from usage of pesticides and insecticides. One thing is certain—the butterfly populations in our beloved Los Rios Park are on the rise. The Garden Angels have taken up this plight to strengthen our local pollinators by distinguishing the fauna and flora to benefit their declining population through the North American Butterfly Association.

In 2013 the park received recognition as a certified North America Butterfly Association (NABA)-approved garden. In order to be a NABA-certified butterfly garden, the park needed to provide a minimum of 12 host and nectar plants from the required plant list to support regional native butterfly habitats. Many of the existing plants in the Los Rios Park were on the list, and those plants that weren’t on the list were supplied by Tree of Life Nursery.

The common plants listed below provide a strong butterfly habitat and are the correct food source to support the growing Orange County butterfly populations at the park. Included below is the list of the butterflies.

By using these plants in your garden pallet, you will help in the plight of the butterfly recovery and can gain a NABA certificate of your own. For more info, visit

Host and Nectar: Plants, Shrubs, Trees and Vines:

  • California Buckwheat
  • Golden, White and Red Yarrow
  • California Native Milkweed
  • Tropical Milkweed
  • Buddleia Butterfly Bush
  • Toyon
  • Bush Mallow
  • Hollyhocks
  • California Poppies
  • Passion Vine
  • Ceanothus
  • Coffee Berry
  • Yellow Cassia
  • Bush Sunflower
  • Mistletoe
  • Sycamore
  • Holly Leaf Cherry
  • Coast Live Oak

Los Rios Park Butterflies:

  • Monarchs
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Cloudless Sulphurs
  • Yellow Sulphurs
  • Anise Swallowtail
  • White Checkered Skippers
  • Gulf Fritillary

Creating a butterfly garden or caring for one is a step you can take this winter to get started and make a difference. Would you like to learn more about butterfly gardens and caring for their habitats? The Los Rios Park Garden Angels are in need of more volunteers to help tend to the gardens on Thursdays. No garden experience is needed, volunteers will be trained. Volunteer application is required as are gloves and closed-toe shoes. For more details, contact If you would like to create a garden of your own, visit Tree of Life Nursery for workshops, plants and landscape consultants to help you.

Marianne Taylor, of San Juan Capistrano, is the founder and executive director of Goin Native Therapeutic Gardens, a 501(c)(3) teaching gardening and life skills as a way of empowering, engaging and connecting people. Goin Native focuses on educating local families, special needs adults, seniors, at-risk youth and members of the military.



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