Taking the project far beyond the boundaries of what his horticulture class requires, Eric Hughes is working with other students to plan a butterfly garden of nectar-producing plants that are native to our area. Eric is passionate about biodiversity, explaining, “The plant and bird relationship is so intertwined.” He is helping his classmates and teacher, Mrs. Tinder, in the selection of plant life which butterflies and birds will use as food and that will help to serve reproductive needs of the attracted species.
In elementary school, Eric Hughes was often referred to as “that bird kid” and had a website of the same name, logging bird species in his spare time. He will be rising to grade 10 this fall and has already been featured in the national Birds & Blooms magazine two times, once spotlighting a bird feeder which he created to attract various species of feathered fauna with different types of food.
Eric regularly participates in the annual “great backyard bird count (BBBC)” joining bird counters from all over the globe. He has done a tremendous amount of work for Ellis Woods Park and goes to the East Coventry Township Parks and Recreation meetings to discuss bio diverse environments. He has personally led clean-ups of invasive and non-native plants at Ellis Woods to help re-establish the native growth and keep the bird populations flourishing. He happily reported that he recently saw the 100th bird species in that park, which he informed to be roughly one-eighth to one-ninth the total bird species in North America. At community days, he hands out brochures to advocate for native plantings and birds.
Eric works to help people understand how birds, insects, and plants are closely interlinked. A butterfly garden can have a profound effect on biodiversity. Many people plan gardens with a visual element in mind and do not know to consider food value and habitat needs of the life that will be attracted to the garden—an ecosystem palette. Natives also tend to survive best in the growing conditions of which they evolved, making them a more economic choice than non-natives as well.
Look for the new butterfly garden in the front courtyard near the greenhouse at the high school in 2014-15.