04 November 2017

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks - Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Photography at Our Local Parks
Featuring : Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

An aerial view of Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

Almost five months ago to the day, the community volunteers participated in a Community Planting Day at Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden. The brainchild of grassroots activist Sussie Ketit, it had the strong support of Mayor Teo Ho Pin, the Member of Parliament for Bukit Panjang and the local community gardeners in the area. With the help of volunteers from the Seletar Country Club group under the capable leadership of Mr Foo JL, the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden Phase II took shape.

And this was how it all started...  Community Planting and saplings in the planters just 5 months ago

Back on 3 June, the planters were prepared with topsoil and compost and various butterfly host and nectaring plants were readied for the community to do some gardening. Mr Foo's strategy of concentrating the plants in organised planter beds surrounded by concrete kerbs was to eliminate the accidental removal of the butterfly host/nectaring plants (many of which are 'weeds') by maintenance personnel. It was clear that any plants found within the planter beds were intentionally planted there and should not be cleared as 'weeds'.

Lush greenery in the planters just 5 months later!

Fast forward five months later, under the tender loving care of the volunteers, especially Sebastian Chia, Lydia Davina Yeo, Cheng Khim, Mr Foo, Evangeline Seah and many other passionate volunteers who spent a lot of their free time tending to the plants and watering them, the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden has now attracted many species of urban and even some forest butterflies. The planter beds are now covered with lush greenery and the butterfly nectaring plants providing sustenance to the visiting butterflies.

All grown up, with lots of tender loving care!

It is amazing, when you consider the empty planters just five months back. Our equatorial climate is just ideal for the growth of plants and with some effort in maintaining the plants, the results can be quite satisfying. Today, the plants are doing well and the butterfly species count has reached 51 species in just a short five months!

Host and nectaring plants aplenty.  Can you spot the Mottled Emigrant on its caterpillar host plant?

The mix of plants ranged from host plants like Rattlebox Weed, Crown Flower, Seven Golden Candlesticks, Blood Flower, and many more. Nectaring plants included Lantana, Red Tree Shrub, Purple Snakeweed, Spanish Needle, Bandicoot Berry, and so on. In the early morning hours and on a bright sunny day, a visitor can see many butterflies fluttering around the plants, feeding and laying eggs on their preferred caterpillar host plants.

Crows and Tigers attracted to Eupatorium squamosum at the butterfly garden

The alkaloids in the Asteraceae species, Eupatorium squamosum that was cultivated in the planters appear to be as attractive to the Danainaes (Tigers and Crows) as the Indian Heliotrope and the Rattlebox Weed plants. Amongst the Danainae species observed at this plant's flowers are the Striped Blue Crow, Blue and Dark Glassy Tigers and a Blue Spotted Crow.

A high-flying butterfly's view of the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

The success of this small butterfly garden, spanning about 150m by about 50m, is probably due to its proximity to the Central Catchment Nature Reserves. The park connector network that links up this area to the biodiversity-rich nature reserves also helps as a 'bridge' to facilitate butterflies' movements along nature-friendly 'highways'.

Although the butterfly garden is no more than 10-15 away from a major road, the use of plants as buffers help to mitigate the effects of vehicular exhaust pollution and fast-moving vehicles from the butterfly garden

Although the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden is located just about 10-15 m away from the busy Bukit Panjang Road, air pollution and the movement of vehicles is mitigated by rows of buffer plants that shield the butterfly garden. Immediately next to the 3+3 lane major arterial road is a green roadside planting verge that features Heliconias and other shrubs. Further in, two rows of Lakka Palms and Coconut palms, with more Heliconias buffer the butterfly garden.

Creative artwork on the concrete kerbs by young and old artists lend a splash of colours to the planters at the butterfly garden

The assortment of plants in the planters have been effective in attracting butterflies. In a further attempt to beautify the planters, the boring precast concrete kerbs are given a fresh coat of paint. Volunteers, young and old, helped to add a splash of colours, in the form of stylised butterflies and plants to the kerbs.

Butterflies bred from caterpillars found at the butterfly garden

The community volunteers are trained to breed caterpillars found on the host plants at the butterfly garden, and the eclosed butterflies are released back into the garden to sustain the population of butterflies there. The Town Council has been requested not to spray pesticides at the butterfly garden to ensure that the caterpillars and butterflies are not killed.

An assortment of butterflies found at the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden

The gardeners who are maintaining the area are also taught how to make compost from the dead leaves that are collected from the trees, and to practise sustainable gardening. The compost is then used for the planters to help sustain healthy plant growth. The community education and awareness efforts also help to inform visitors to the butterfly garden not to kill the caterpillars and butterflies as they are part of our natural biodiversity.

So the next time you are in the Bukit Panjang area, do drop by and take a look at the Bukit Panjang Butterfly Garden and see how many butterflies you can count fluttering amongst the shrubbery. Here you see a variety of butterflies that can be found at the butterfly garden.

How to get there :

There are many bus services that bring visitors to the bus stop along Bukit Panjang Road. Alight just in front of Blk 222 and walk eastwards towards the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE). For those taking the MRT, alight at Choa Chu Kang MRT station (NS4), hop on to the LRT and alight at Pending Station (BP8). Drivers can access the HDB carpark via Petir Road and park your car near Blk 213 (carpark CKBJ8), where parking is free on Sundays and Public Holidays.

Text by Khew SK : Photos by Alan Ang, Janice Ang, Sebastian Chia, Foo JL, Sussie Ketit, Khew SK, Michael Khor, Or Cheng Khim, Soh Kam-Yung, Irene Tan and Alson Teo