Waystation helps feed migrating Monarch butterflies

Barbara Hootman

Because Monarch butterflies migrate through the Swannanoa Valley each fall, way stations are being created around Black Mountain to provide high-energy plants for fuel during their flight.

Creating the way stations around Black Mountain is part of an international effort to create pollinator habitat and plant milkweed in support of the bees and butterflies that are declining globally. As part of the effort, portions of the fairway at the Black Mountain disc golf course are going to be seeded with native short grasses and wildflowers. To be planted are perennial sunflowers, late-blooming asters and goldenrod. Plants yielding nectar that provides the energy butterflies need to complete their journey to Mexico will also be planted.

“We are excited about the opportunity that complements what we’ve been doing over the last several years to support pollinators at the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden and the disc golf field,” said Jill Edwards, the recreation and park department’s health service programs administrator.

Painters Green House and the Black Mountain Recreation and Parks Department, along with community volunteers, will create a Monarch way station at the Black Mountain disc golf course on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11 and 12 from noon-4 p.m. To help, contact Emily Sampson at or 545-6826.

Sampson has been a principal at Painters Greenhouse since 2010. Every year she has focused on greenhouse production, including growing more native plants. She said she is dedicated to helping wildlife by creating quality habitat in backyards. She has has led Painters Greenhouse’s involvement in growing pollinator plants for large-scale habitat restoration projects in the area.

With Black Mountain Recreation and Parks, Sampson developed a plan to create a Monarch migration meadow around the Black Mountain disc golf course.

“Growing native plants for habitat restoration has been my dream since I began working in the greenhouse industry 10 years ago,” she said. This past season, because of growing concern over general pollinator decline and Monarch Butterfly populations, she saw the need for native nectar plants, “so I sowed as many milkweed seeds as I could get my hands on, while trying not to alarm the greenhouse owners that we were becoming a milkweed farm,” she said.

Painters Greenhouse began a trial program to grow wholesale pollinator plants to support local conservation efforts, and the interest far exceeded expectations. During the summer, Painters grew and sold more than 5,000 native milkweeds and donated more than 1,000 pollinator plants. Plans are in the works to expand the program in future years.

Painters donated more than 500 pollinator plants that were planted by Sampson in a milkweed patch next to the Black Mountain Greenway. Painters also donated more than 50 pollinator plants to the Black Mountain Primary School Butterfly Garden over the past two years. The greenhouse also supplied thousands of discounted pollinator plants to Monarch Watch, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, N.C. Wildlife Commission, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, North Carolina Arboretum’s Monarch Day, Bee City USA and Asheville Greenworks.

Through multiple efforts, Sampson hopes to educate the next generation about protecting pollinators. She taught third graders about native pollinators during “What’s the Buzz About Bees?” at Black Mountain Primary School. She also helped Girl Scouts from Troop 30226 earn their “Bug Badges” by having them help plant native nectar plants and learn about the diversity of insects in the milkweed patch. The scouts were able to observe Monarch caterpillars and tag and release the butterflies.