Tennessee is home to over 135 butterfly species, but one in particular is a well-known favorite of Dolly Parton – the Monarch! The Monarch is the only butterfly that makes a two-direction migration each year and Knoxville sits right in the middle of their migration pattern between Canada and Mexico. There are plenty of places to see these wonderful insects in their natural habitats and to study them up close— whether hiking, picnicking, or spending a day gardening at home.
Celebrate National Learn About Butterflies Day, grab a buddy, and go check out our favorite spots to see butterflies and beautiful spring flowers!
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1.) Knoxville Botanical Garden
The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is located on 47 acres and features walking trails and display gardens just 5 minutes from Downtown Knoxville. The Butterfly Meadow contains only plants that are native to East Tennessee, including some interesting cultivars of native plants. The plants were chosen specifically to provide larval food for native butterflies, but also to ensure something is in bloom for nine months of the year, which not only provides nectar but also shelter. There are over 50 native species in this garden space. The Meadow and adjacent outdoor classroom provide an opportunity for children to connect with, and a reason to care for, their natural surroundings. The admission is free but the beauty you will see all around you is priceless!
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2.) UT Gardens
The new Monarch Waystation at UT Gardens is a 5,000 square foot garden designed to attract Monarch butterflies as they migrate south – which they typically do in the spring or fall. The garden features over 80 species of plants that specifically attract Monarchs and provide plenty of food and shelter for their caterpillars as they go through metamorphosis and become beautiful butterflies. Their calendar also has butterfly-related events including Butterfly Week and the Butterfly Festival.
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3.) Seven Islands State Birding Park
The Wild Yards Garden at the entrance to Seven Islands State Birding Park is a gorgeous demonstration of using native plants in landscaping to help protect and preserve pollinators and other wildlife. The pollinator garden demonstrates how to use native plants to protect wildlife, and it includes native habitat for butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and more. In total, the park has 130 acres of pollinator habitat including two monarch waystations. Over eight miles of scenic trails wind through the park, up the ridges and down to the waterfront, highlighting the park’s diverse habitats and providing ideal opportunities for wildlife observation.
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4.) UT Arboretum
The Wildflower Garden that surrounds the Visitors Center at UT Arboretum is designed to be a natural magnet for butterflies and moths. The diversity of plantings provides nectar and shelter for many species of butterflies including Fritillary, Skipper, Sulpher, Swallowtail, and the commonly recognized Monarch. A walk down the scenic 1-mile walking trail winds you around the various gardens and greenhouses, which feature species of plants that specifically attract pollinators like butterflies.
And for the true butterfly lovers out there, don’t forget to snag a pic of the Dolly mural in the alley between Gay Street and Market Square. Pick up a sticker from our Visitors Center to remember your visit and all you learned about butterflies!