Windsor Terrace’s Butterfly Lady Working to Enlarge Flyers’ Habitat

A monarch butterfly hovers over a purple coneflower in Jennifer Hopkins’.Windsor Terrace garden.

Many of her Windsor Terrace neighbors know Jennifer Hopkins as the butterfly lady.

Hopkins, who has lived in the community for the past two decades, has built a reputation on the street for encouraging residents with backyards to do what she does: Plant butterfly gardens, gardens studded with flowers that attract the gracious flyers and which provide the sort of environment they favor for laying their eggs.

It’s not just that the gardens are pretty. Rather, stressed Hopkins, by creating the sort of habitat that butterflies prefer, area residents are creating an important bridge between two of the borough’s existing butterfly habitats, Prospect Park and Green Wood Cemetery, which are each about 500 acres in size.

Should Hopkins’ Brooklyn Butterfly Project, AKA the Windsor Terrace Greenway Project, be successful, she told this paper, the habitat that would be created for butterflies would exceed 1,000 acres right at the borough’s heart.

Thus, Hopkins strews butterfly favorites such as purple coneflowers, sunflowers, asters, bee balm and zinnias in her backyard, and gives cuttings to neighbors who want them.

After about seven years, she says, about 75 of her neighbors have planted their backyards with butterfly-friendly flowers which are rich in nectar that attracts the insects. In addition, said Hopkins, Immaculate Heart of Mary School and Public School 154, on 11th Avenue, have also planted butterfly gardens.

“I see more butterflies than I used to,” she reported, “mostly swallowtails and monarchs.”

The project took shape after Hopkins moved from one home across the street from Prospect Park (where she did not have a backyard) to another across from the cemetery, where she had a backyard to call her own.

“I noticed that there were lots of birds and butterflies on the edges (of Windsor Terrace), not in the middle,” Hopkins explained, stressing that while the park and the cemetery attracted such fauna, the neighborhood itself did not.

Now, Hopkins uses the winter months to start nectar-rich flowers from seed, giving them out to local residents who want to take part when the weather warms up. “I’m trying to replace the impatiens that everyone plants,” she noted.

Impatiens do not attract butterflies because they do not contain nectar, Hopkins said; other popularly planted flowers that also do not contain nectar – and therefore do not attract butterflies — are petunias, geraniums and marigolds.

Other flowers that attract butterflies include butterfly bush, butterfly weed, coreopsis, wild geranium and lantana. Plants that butterflies prefer for laying their eggs include parsley and milkweed.

Planting the latter, Hopkins noted, is, “Fun for kids, because they can see the caterpillars.”

Besides reaching out to neighbors, this year said Hopkins her “goal” is to plant butterfly gardens in a little park and playground in the neighborhood.

For further information, log onto Hopkins’ website, brooklynbutterflyproject.org.

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