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Calusa Garden Club celebrates butterfly garden anniversary

Sara Wolf
Special to the Eagle
Lena Molinari watches as a butterfly lands on her hand before it flies away to feed on the many nectar plants in the Butterfly Garden.

On Tuesday, April 16, over 50 guests, including members of Calusa Garden Club and others in the Marco Island community, met at the Calusa Park Butterfly Garden on Winterberry Drive to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Calusa Park Butterfly Garden.

Susan LaGrotta, Butterfly Garden chairperson for Calusa Garden Club and until recently, a member of the Marco Island Beautification Advisory Committee, welcomed the guests and thanked all who had purchased butterflies.

Syd Mellinger, former president of Calusa Garden Club and one of the Marco Island residents who championed the establishment of the Butterfly Garden at Calusa Park in 2009, with Sue Oldershaw, another former president of Calusa Garden Club who was formerly a member of the Marco Island Beautification Advisory Committee and who is active in the care and maintenance of the Butterfly Garden.

Over 125 butterflies in small cooled paper packages were passed out to those who had ordered them in memory of or in honor of loved ones, and after the butterflies were warmed by the sun, participants released their butterflies. The delighted crowd members watched in awe as colorful butterflies filled the air, landed on the butterfly attracting plants in the Butterfly Garden, and flew around the area.

One of the honored guests present at the butterfly release was Syd Mellinger, former president of Calusa Garden Club and one of the Marco Island residents who championed the establishment of the Butterfly Garden at Calusa Park in 2009.

Jacquelyn Pierce preparing to release a butterfly in honor of her granddaughter, who was diagnosed with cancer as a baby, but who survived the disease and is now a healthy 14-year old.

The Butterfly Garden was established by the City of Marco Island Beautification Advisory Committee in 2009, with assistance from Calusa Garden Club. The location chosen for the Butterfly Garden was the half-mile linear Calusa Park on Winterberry Drive, which was set aside for Marco Island residents by the Mackle Brothers and is maintained by the City of Marco Island.  

The City of Marco Island, Calusa Garden Club, and other citizens of Marco Island worked together to raise money to purchase and to plant the initial plantings and install two benches in the Butterfly Garden. In addition, local landscapers donated trees for Calusa Park and the Butterfly Garden.

Gerry Richards next to a display showing types of butterflies and the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly, where she is allowing her butterfly to warm in the sun before releasing it.

Calusa Garden Club maintains the plants and surrounding area of the Butterfly Garden with monthly work sessions on the first Saturday of every month, and members work in the garden more frequently if needed.  The City of Marco Island also assists with maintenance of Calusa Park and the Butterfly Garden.  The City’s recent addition of the paved walkway and bikeway in Calusa Park greatly enhanced and set apart the area for the Butterfly Garden.

Calusa Garden Club is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and membership is open to those interested in horticulture, floral design and environmental matters residing five months or more in Collier County. 

Calusa Garden Club meets the second Monday of each month, October through March, at Wesley United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 350 S. Barfield Drive, Marco Island. Business meetings begin at 12:30 p.m. and programs begin at 1:15 p.m.  Calusa Garden Club welcomes visitors interested in our educational programs and visitors interested in membership.  Contact the Garden Club at calusagardenclub@aol.com, or on the Garden Club’s website, calusa.org, or visit the Club’s Facebook page Calusa Garden Club.