Chennai

A garden with a difference

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The space at QMC is marked by host and nectar plants that draw butterflies

The 17-acre campus of the Queen Mary’s College comes alive in variegated colour, thanks to the institution’s initiative to draw butterflies to it.

There is quite a variety of butterflies to clap eyes on: To name a few, yellow pansy, common crow, common mormon, common castor, tawny coster, angled castor, chocolate pansy, lemon pansy, lime, crimson rose and forget-me-not.

The zoology department of the college set up a butterfly garden two months ago, when it was inaugurated by college principal S. Santhi as part of wildlife week celebration.

“The uniqueness of this garden is that we are not releasing butterflies brought from elsewhere. Here, we are trying to create a conducive environment for butterflies to come to the garden. While we try to understand butterflies, the flora is classified into two. Flora that butterflies rely on for egg-laying, and these are called host plants and trees. Flora that that feed the butterflies are nectar plants and trees. In our garden, we have both host and nectar plants and trees,” says Bavani Govindarajulu, assistant professor, zoology department.

The park has Ashoka tree, premna tree, lime tree, curry leaves tree, white butter cup plants, jungle flame tree, castor plant, calotrophis plant and nerium plant, and these are greenery that serve as host plants and trees for some butterfly species. Likewise, Rangoon creeper, coral vine creeper, chrysanthemum plant, tridax plant, lantana plant, vinca rosea plant, cosmos plant, balsam plant, euphorbia milili plant and jatrophra plant have been planted to provide nectar for butterflies.

The assistant professor has been conducting a butterfly count at the QMC campus for the past eight years.

“In a study conducted between February 2018 and July 2019, 44 species were spotted on our campus; most of them were from the lycaenidae (blues) family. Likewise, species like crimson-tip, joker, spot swordtail and painted lady were spotted for the first time on the campus in August 2019. In a 2017-2018 study, the common pierrot was found in abundance, but it did not show up in the February 2018- July 2019 study. Only one was spotted during the fag end of this October,” says Bavani.

The assistant professor expresses her interest in guiding children to set up their own butterfly garden. She can be reached at bavaniqmc@gmail.com.

“The objective to have a such a park is to sensitise our students that butterflies are among the best pollinators and play a crucial role in food production; and so, it is important to conserve them. It is encouraging to note that both the teaching faculty and students tend to this garden. Also, we would like to open this garden to children. If we get the consent of our higher authorities, we will do so,” says E. Malathi, associate professor, who heads zoology department.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 8:51:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-garden-with-a-difference/article30136039.ece

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