PARIS — McLaughlin Garden and Homestead will celebrate the advent of the gardening season with its annual Wildflower Festival starting Friday with an illustrated lecture by Ron Butler about his work with the Maine Butterfly Survey.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 8-10, at the garden, 97 Main St. Tours of the garden will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. Friday and at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Butler is an ecology professor from the University of Maine at Farmington and helped spearhead the state’s butterfly survey, which began in 2007. His talk is titled “The Maine Butterfly Survey – What Have We Learned?” and will start at 3 p.m. Friday. It coincides with National Public Garden Day. Butler will discuss the findings of the project and the important role pollinators, including butterflies, play in the local ecosystem.

Butler said by email that the state’s pollinators are “critically important” to maintaining a healthy, thriving ecosystem, which include butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and bees.

“One estimate suggests that pollinators contribute about $40 billion (a year) to our national economy,” Butler wrote. “I think most people are unaware that approximately 90 percent of flowering plants are pollinated by animals. There are about 200,000 species that are pollinators and about 99 percent of these are insects.”

McLaughlin Garden Executive Director Donna Anderson said this week that there’s a number of pollinators, including butterflies, that populate the garden.

“We will see what’s going to be out and about,” she said.

There’s five major butterfly families in Maine, with 68 of the 120 species in the state found in Oxford Hills, Butler said.

Attendees at Butler’s lecture will receive “butterfly bombs,” which are made up of milkweed that people can plant in their gardens to help nurture and attract butterflies, Anderson said.

“I think it’s important to talk about environmental issues and things that (people) can do, even if it’s a modest thing like a butterfly bomb,” she said. “(They should) not just assume it’s something that someone else does.”

There’s been a long history of citizen science initiatives in Maine, which began in 1986 with the Maine Amphibian and Reptile Atlasing Project. It was followed by the Maine Damselfly and Dragonfly Survey in 2000, Butler said. He’s since moved on to the Maine Bumble Bee Atlas, and is currently documenting the state’s top pollinators.

“The Maine Bumble Bee Atlas project originated from a growing concern for the global decline in native pollinators,” Butler explained.

There is one beehive on site at the garden, back in the northeast corner behind the compost area.

“We are going to be spending this year making it a healthier hive,” Anderson said. Work includes enhancing the garden around it. “Bees are pretty territorial. We don’t want people to get too close.”

As for the wildflowers, there are plenty on the grounds, including the old farming lane that garden founder Bernard McLaughlin transformed.

“You can overlook them because they’re more subtle,” Anderson said, adding that people have to look and step more carefully when searching for wildflowers.

McLaughlin Garden horticulturist Kristin Perry will talk about the garden’s wildflowers throughout the weekend.

On an impromptu tour of the garden Monday, Perry pointed out a number of the wild plants growing along the trail, which leads up the hill and to an open field that was once a pasture. They included the curly, fuzzy-looking green ostrich ferns, better known as fiddleheads, which people gather and eat.

There’s the bloodroot with simple, white flowers,  and the green, leafy trillium, which has yet to flower and is spread by ants carrying the seeds up the hill, Perry said. And don’t forget about the pulmonaria, also known as lungwort, with its delicate pink and purple flowers and speckled leaves.

There will also be plants for sale for those who want to bring home a little piece of Bernard McLaughlin’s garden.

For more information about the Wildflower Festival or other programs at McLaughlin Garden, visit, call 743-8820 or email [email protected].

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