The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) contacted the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail (RCBT) in 2022 requesting assistance with their state wildflower program. In addition to the wildflower program, GDOT is supporting habitat for Monarch butterflies. “These projects have similar goals to the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail and fit into our mission” said Annette Wise, President of RCBT.
The GDOT has a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances to support the Monarch butterfly and signed an agreement with US Fish and Wildlife. “By signing this agreement, GDOT has committed to take measures on specific sections of the right of way that will support populations on Monarch butterflies as they migrate through Georgia.” said Felicity Davis, GDOT Architect Manager.
The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail is excited to support the GDOT wildflower project. “In 2022, we worked with the landscape architects to determine the best roadside location around Plains. Several locations were approved which include the east and west right of ways on HWY280”, said Wise. There are 3.5 acres that have been planted in the Plains area. These roadside areas include conservation mowing to enhance habitat, targeted herbicide treatment, invasive species presentation, and seeding and planting to restore or create habitat. “We are in our first year of the project with a good stand of cosmos in full bloom, perennials are not in bloom now but should be well established and begin to bloom in 2024,” said Wise. Even though native milkweed was not included in the roadside seed mix, the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail has milkweed beds established at the Plains Welcome Center on HWY280 as well as other many locations in Plains. We will be adding milkweed plugs this spring in the wildflower plots to provide more native milkweed for the Monarch migration through our area.
The wildflower project provides much needed nectar from spring through frost for all pollinators. The seed selection includes annuals and perennials. The annuals will reseed each year increasing the number of plants in the plot and the perennials once established will also spread. Seeds were selected based on their ability to take full sun and drought tolerance. The flowers are beautiful and also play an important role by providing nectar to encourage healthy pollinators.
The GDOT wildflower project began in the mid-1970s with the assistance of Virginia Hand Callaway. At the time she served on the Wildflowers Committee of the Garden Club of Georgia (GCG). Mrs. Callaway approached Rosalynn Carter, who was first lady of Georgia at the time. The idea of a Georgia roadside wildflower program was presented and endorsed by GDOT Commissioner Downing Musgrove. The program began in Georgia in the late 1990s but really took off in 1999 when Georgia approved the sale of its special wildflower license tags. Proceeds go into the Roadside Enhancement and Beautification Fund dedicated to the Wildflower Program.
The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail was established in 2013 by Annette Wise and Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. The trail begins in Plains at the Carter’s and spans across the United States, Canada and other countries with over 3000 gardens committed to providing nectar and host plants for butterflies common in their area. “We emphasis habitat to include native milkweed plants. Monarch butterflies only lay eggs on milkweed so we are working to establish habitat for the spring migration as well as the fall migration of Monarchs,” said Wise. “All pollinators benefit from these gardens as well as people who enjoy the beautiful flowers and butterflies that visit the gardens.”
On your drive through Plains be sure and stop by the Plains Welcome Center to pick up information about the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail and free wildflower seeds for your garden. You are invited to register your garden with the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail at www.rosalynncarterbutterflytrail.org .