ArcheWild Builds a 31-acre Butterfly Research Meadow in NJ

ArcheWild Building a 31-acre Butterfly Research Meadow in NJ

ArcheWild has been selected to build a butterfly and pollinator meadow research platform in the New Jersey Highlands for a regional Conservancy.  The meadow’s primary function is a Monarch butterfly refuge but is designed to support dozens of additional butterfly and pollinator species. The meadow, built over a 7-year period, uses 100% open-pollinated, local-ecotype OPLE® genetics collected from representative locations throughout the region.

Butterfly Research Meadow 2015 - After clearing
Butterfly Research Meadow 2015 – After clearing

The first major task was thoroughly clearing the site of invasive plant species and to prepare a suitable seed bed.  The meadows had been low-grade agricultural fields before being abandoned for several years.  The Conservancy saved the fields from development but hadn’t been able to maintain them properly.  The edges became choked with honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, privet, and multi-flora rose.  The field interiors had become a mugwort mono-culture.

Butterfly Research Meadow 2015 - dealing with mugwort
Butterfly Research Meadow 2015 – mugwort

The fields were mown, the edges cut back to the original tree lines and stone walls, and the interiors sprayed with a light herbicide to put pressure on the mugwort.  A local farmer tilled and planted cover crops twice a season in unseeded portions of the fields to put additional pressure on the mugwort..

Butterfly Research Meadow 2015 - Edge clearing
Butterfly Research Meadow 2015 – Edge clearing

Using local genetics of locally-occurring plant communities is a core philosophy of the building process to help the meadow perform as a naturally-occurring meadow.  Species proportions are designed to very closely match natural native plant community compositions with the EcoRegion.  The location of the research meadow is within EcoRegion 058h, Reading Prong, of the Northeastern Highlands.  Sources of genetic material are depicted with triangles in the following graphic.

ArcheWild 2015 - EcoRegion 058h local-ecotype sites
ArcheWild 2015 – EcoRegion 058h ecotype sites

Seed collection sites were chosen based on their location within the EcoRegion and based on their naturalness, which we define as sites that have no evidence of having ever been artificially seeded with internet-sourced seed mixes.  These sites are in quite remote locations, often under powerlines or other areas that receive no maintenance other than to keep woodies under control.  The similarity in plant species composition was striking, with the dominant species listed below:

ArcheWild - 058h meadow plant community
ArcheWild – 058h meadow plant community

ArcheWild will add new content to this post as the project progresses.

For more information, write Mark.