(Mission, TX) Meet the creatures that make South Texas so colorful and wonderful at the National Butterfly Center's FREE Earth Day celebration, Saturday, April 19, from 10 AM – 2 PM.
"We are delighted to present ‘Meet the Creatures’, again, this year,” states Marianna Trevino-Wright, Executive Director. “It’s important for people to understand the difference between animals that belong here, and animals that don’t, so we use Earth Day as special opportunity to give children and families up close and personal experiences with all kinds of wildlife. Some species, like the Texas Brown Tarantula, are native to the Rio Grande Valley and linked to a balanced ecosystem; while other species, like the Ball Python, are non-native and potentially destructive. We want people to appreciate both, but discourage support of the exotic pet trade and the introduction of non-natives to the landscape.”
Several non-native species have come to reside permanently at the National Butterfly Center, where they now play a leading role in environmental education programs. One of these creatures, named Styx, hails from Argentina and has the potential to grow to over 4 feet in length. Surrendered by his owners due to a move, this Tegu Lizard is considered a voracious eater and an invasive species that reproduces rapidly in the wild. Another NBC resident, Spike, is a 100 lb. African Spurred Tortoise, who was actually picked up by Mission Animal Control officers after he escaped from his backyard enclosure.
(Mission, TX) – The National Butterfly Center is on a mission to roll back your lawn! Maintaining that lush, green St. Augustine carpet consumes thousands of gallons of water each year—water and money you could be saving. Why not start saving by carving out a corner of your yard for colorful native plants that will attract butterflies, enhance your landscape, and decrease the amount of time and money you spend on lawn care and maintenance?
“To help Rio Grande Valley residents get started with this roll back, we're introducing our Plant of the Month series,” states Max Munoz, grounds manager of the National Butterfly Center. “We know plants are a mystery to many people, and the idea of gardening can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Native plants are an easy introduction to gardening and the best way for beginners to get growing, because they are typically hearty and require little attention. So, even if you may not have a 'green thumb', you have a good chance of succeeding with plant species that are designed to thrive here, regardless.
(Mission, TX) – This year, the National Butterfly Center has resolved to use less water. It may not be sexy, but it sure is important in a land where drought and resource conservation are common themes. As part of this effort, we will be converting our traditional, flat-growing Nursery to a more efficient vertical one—and gaining room to grow more in the process!
“For a few years, now, we’ve been struggling with space issues in our native plant nursery,” explains Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center. “We desperately needed to expand, to increase our production capacity, but could not afford to expand the nursery in its current form. Elevated beds that protect plants from pests, prevent rooting, and allow for proper drainage can be expensive to build and they leave a large footprint; so, we found ourselves facing the same sort of problems that urban gardeners often face, where resources are limited and every square foot of growing space comes at a premium. This realization led us to an “urban” solution.”Vertical growing systems are just what they’re called: vertical; instead of growing plants in horizontal rows, one grows in columns that may reach the sky. Growing plants in this manner uses 1/10th the water of a traditional system, as drip irrigation literally trickles down, from one planter to another. There is no overspray, no need for saturation, no run-off and no water waste. The vertical system also keeps plants high enough to avoid slugs and snails, as well as animals that may menace a garden when no one is watching.
(Mission, TX) – Kenny Salazar, amateur photographer and resident of the Rio Grande Valley, won the 2013 North American Butterfly Photo Contest, with his photo of not one, but two, butterflies familiar to South Texas. Salazar's photo was chosen from among hundreds of entries in this international contest that is open to anyone of any age, no matter where they live, so long as the photo of a live, free-flying butterfly is taken in North America.
When asked how he became interested in photography, Salazar explains, “My senior year of high school I had to choose an elective. Black and white photography class seemed like an easy 'A', so I signed up. I discovered I had a knack for it and I was hooked. Although I've been taking snapshots since I was 18, it wasn't until 5 years ago that photography became a passion for me. I was given a Digital SLR for my 40th birthday by my wife and I haven't stopped taking pictures since!”
(Mission, TX) – You're invited to Spike's birthday party, Sunday, December 15, at 2 pm, at the National Butterfly Center! A yearlong resident of the garden, Spike is a giant African Spurred Tortoise, whose birthday we celebrate at the anniversary of his adoption.
Abandoned after 10 years when his boy went to college, Spike was picked up by Animal Control and surrendered to a local sanctuary. The sanctuary owner first suggested Spike come live at the National Butterfly Center, where he has become a very large part of the youth education and wildlife conservation program.
“We call Spike 'the world's most spectacular non-butterfly', states Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center. “He's huge and very friendly, so everyone loves him. He enjoys all the attention he receives, here, and he's an excellent visual aid for teaching children all the things that butterflies have in common with reptiles, and why South Texas is home to so many of both!”