Mount Magazine is the highest point in the state of Arkansas. It is also home to the State Park with the highest elevation in Arkansas. The park is known for hiking trails, a lodge built right out on a ledge overlooking the Petit Jean valley, spectacular butterflies and the plants that the butterflies are attracted to.
The park’s elevation of 2,750 feet makes it an “island in the sky.” There, ecosystem niches provide an ideal spot for meadow flowers that attract 86 species of butterfly. The park is the host to an international butterfly festival near the end of every June.
Butterflies may be found on the mountain from March through October. But with the tremendous heat that Arkansas is experiencing right now, it can actually be quite difficult to spot butterflies. The easiest time to spot butterflies in the park right now is in the early morning. Male Butterflies are the ones that you will spot first. They will remain stationary in order to attract females.
Taking a walk along any of the nature trails is a good way to spot the butterflies. Most of the park was privately-owned farmland prior to the Great depression. As the trails wind through the park, you will find old wagon roads, stone fences escaped flowers and wildflowers. The wildflowers are the plants that the butterflies are attracted to.
The good news for gardeners is that many of the wild plants found on Mount Magazine may also be planted in your garden to attract butterflies. Seeds from these plants are available in the visitor’s center.
Some of the plants that attract butterflies include:
Milkweed – This is a popular plant for Monarch Butterflies. Mt. Magazine lies in the path of the yearly Monarch Migration to and from Mexico. Both domestic and tropical milkweed will attract these butterflies.
Purple Coneflower – A general nectar food for butterflies. The butterflies are attracted to the bright purple blossoms. The Diana Fritillary in particular requires the kind of high quality nectar provided by the Purple Coneflower.
Black Eyed Susan – The Great Spangled Fritillary is attracted to Black Eyed Susan. Many other butterflies will also be drawn to the plant thanks to its bright yellow blossoms
Mexican Hat – This is another general nectar plant for Buterflies. The concave flowers provide a natural landing pad for butterflies and the fire-red blossoms that droop from the centers capture a butterfly’s attention.
Violets – Violets play host plant to the larval Diana Fritillary. The insects hatch in fall and overwinter on the plants. In spring the caterpillars turn into butterflies. Males fly in late may and mating occurs in June or July. Females have black wings with a blue band while males have black wings with a yellow band around the tips.
For a list of trails through the park, butterflies that you can currently see on the mountain and the flowers that they feed on, check out Mt. Magazine’s website: http://www.mountmagazinestatepark.com