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Restored Prairie Area at Ernie Miller park Drawing Large Number of Butterflies this week
POSTED: 09/18/2003
Drawn by late-blooming flowers in a newly-restored prairie remnant, hundreds of butterflies have been making stops from their southern migration this week at Ernie Miller Park, 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe.

"We've never had a show like this," said Johnson County Park and Recreation District Interpretation Manager Bill McGowan.

McGowan estimated about 1,000 butterflies have been seen in a meadow on the south side of the park in recent days. About 80 percent of the visitors are monarchs, but there are other species as well, including painted ladies and sulfur butterflies, he said.

The butterflies are being drawn by the tall purple blooms of the gayfeather plant, as well as by other prairie plants including goldenrod and sunflowers. Many of these plants have come up naturally following prairie restoration projects late last year and in May of this year in conjunction with Kansas City Wildlands. Those projects removed a number of large eastern red cedar trees which previously choked out the sun-loving prairie plants.

The meadow, which consists of an estimated five acres, is located along Ernie Miller Park's highway frontage south of the main entrance at Ernie Miller Park, 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe. Those interested in visiting the site should park near the picnic shelter near the park's front entrance and follow a nearby trail that goes down and through a wooded valley to the south. The meadow is located beyond this valley. Would-be butterfly watchers should be warned that the meadow itself has no trail, so long pants might be advisable.

McGowan advised that officials have no way of knowing how long the butterflies will be at the park and he speculated that they could disappear quickly with the arrival of the next cold front. The gayfeather plants, he added, will likely continue to bloom well into the week of Sept. 22.

For more information, contact the Ernie Miller Nature Center at (913) 764-7759.

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