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Let's Go Outside . . .


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newThis project was new in 2013. More details and information will be added as they happen. Please check back often.

Little Wings on the Prairie
Butterfly/Pollinator Festival
July 15, 2017

What's Happening in 2017

Follow the 2017 link to see what's new.

What's Happening in 2016

Follow the 2016 link to see what's new.

What's Happening in 2015

Follow the 2015 link to see what's new.

What Happened in 2014

Follow the 2014 link to see what's new.

What Happened in 2013

List of butterflies and other things seen in the garden. If you saw something that needs to be added to the list, please let Charlie know. Thanks.

For Kids, Teachers and
Garden Visitors:

Now available as downloadable documents . . . .

Butterfly Activity/Curriculum Guide by Jen Fowler (4.78 MB pdf format)

Common Butterfly Photos - to use with the Activity Guide (734 KB pdf format)

Prairie Butterfly Identification Poster (3.92 MB pdf format)
This is most readable when printed at a large size.

Oahe Downstream Prairie Butterfly Garden Brochure (346 KB pdf format)

South Dakota Butterflies Check List

South Dakota Butterflies Check List Revised September 2014

As of 15 June 2013 all the plants were planted. It's time to enjoy the Garden.

Special note to Garden visitors - please do not disturb the wildlife in the Garden. To be specific, if you notice a bird nest in the flower beds, please, do not disturb them. If you happen to see a bird fly off a nest, just back away and give them some space. Watching wildlife from a distance is a good thing to do. In 2013, a pair of lark sparrows tried to nest in the marigolds.

The same would go for things you may or may not like, for example snakes. This Garden will likely attract them also, so please be aware of what's around you, but don't be scared of it.


Monarch photo by Doug Backlund,


South Dakota Prairie Butterfly Garden


Link to 5/9/2013 Capital Journal Article


USFWS & SDGFP Press Release

Spring, summer and fall are all great times to get outside and enjoy the native prairies of South Dakota.

In June 2013, the USFWS South Dakota Field Office and the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Departments created a Butterfly Garden at Oahe Downstream Recreation Area.

Over 3,000 perennial plants and numerous annual plants were established in an area approximately 100' x 50'. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to visit the garden to see native prairie plants, try to identify some of the common butterflies of the area, and learn something new about butterflies of South Dakota.

As you arrive at Oahe Downstream's Welcome Center, you may notice a large informational kiosk to the south of the parking lot next to a trail to the garden.

One side of the kiosk has general information about butterflies, butterfly behavior, and butterfly gardening. The other side of the kiosk has identification information for 10 common South Dakota butterflies and 2 rare skippers.

What's in the Garden?

Click here for a larger pdf version of the below draft layout of the prairie butterfly garden.

garden plan

Seventeen South Dakota native perennial plants will be placed in 17 plots with 6 "clumps" of plants. Each "clump" is really made up of 36 individual plants of the same species. This type of grouping will encourage butterflies to linger in an area where the nectar is good. And shortens the flight distance to the next flowering clump. We have tried to arrange the plants so something will be blooming spring through fall and in a variety of color.

The native perennial plants really exceeded our expectations in 2013. They were tall, put out lots of flowers and roots. Some species didn't do as well (textile onions), but hopefully they survived and will be back in the spring of 2014. While the plants are starting in nicely arranged clumps, we hope they will spread and fill in some gaps so it looks more like a native prairie setting. There will be plenty of annual plants to attract and feed the butterflies until then.

Special areas have been arranged for the butterflies.
1) puddling areas - where butterflies can drink water and get extra nutrients from dissolved minerals,


Butterflies Puddling photo by Gary Marrone

2) lots of rocks - where butterflies can rest and absorb heat from the sun,

3) classroom area - where tours and classroom groups can meet and talk about the garden and its inhabitants.

Three benches are placed in the garden during the summer so you can stop and rest or just sit and watch the action.



The Connecticut Connection
also known as Ella is My Hero

Click above or here to see what this is all about.


First Butterfly of the Season - 2013

Doug and Charlie were walking at Farm Island State Park, Pierre, SD on March 30 when a butterfly came floating down the trail. It was either an Eastern Comma or a Question Mark. It didn't give us a chance to see the markings under the wing to get a full identification.


Pine White photo by Gary Marrone

Pierre/Fort Pierre Kids are Busy in the Garden:

* raising annuals from seed and planting them in the garden

* painting signs and identification tags

* painting stones to decorate the garden

* making butterfly feeders

* learning about butterfly behavior and survival

Click here to learn more about classroom activities.


2013 Butterfly Events

April 22, 2013 - Capital City Children's Chorus promote Earth Day and the Prairie Butterfly Garden. Click here for more details.

April 22, 2013 - an information table will be part of Earth Day Event sponsored by the Discovery Center, Pierre, SD. We will be at the Capitol Lake Visitor Center.

We anticipate having Monarch tagging events in the future.

There will be talks/walks in the garden with biologists.

Check back here often to see what's happening.


Full List of Native Perennials Going into the Garden:

Common Name - Scientific Name

Black Samson - Echinacea angustifolia
Anise/Lavender Hyssop - Agastache foeniculum
Purple Prairie Clover - Dalea purpurea
Heath Aster - Aster ericoides
Wild Licorice - Glycyrrhiza lepidota
Dotted Gayfeather - Liatris punctata
Butterfly Milkweed - Asclepias tuberosa
Swamp Milkweed - Asclepias incarnata
Leadplant - Amorpha canescense
Stiff Sunflower - Helianthus rigidus
Aromatic Aster - Aster oblongifolius
Wild Bergamont - Monarda fistulosa
Birdsfoot/Crowfoot Violet - Viola pedatifida
Textile Onion - Allium textile
Buffalo Bean - Astragalus crassicarpos
Hoary Vervain - Verbena stricta
Showy Beardtongue - Penstemon grandiflorus



Watch here to see if the rumor of a sister garden in another state comes true.



Precautions in the Garden

There's always something . . .

Please do not pick the flowers - they are here to feed the butterflies.

Please be aware of bees, snakes, thorns, and other things that can bite, sting or scratch.

Please do not harm other wildlife in the garden. Yes, even rattlesnakes serve a purpose.


More about the importance of pollinators.


painted lady

Painted Lady photo by Doug Backlund,


How you can make your own butterfly garden.



Where is the Garden?

Oahe-Downstream Location Map

Fort Pierre, South Dakota


The Garden is located south of the parking lot by the Visitor Center. A large kiosk is at the edge of the trail.


Garden Progress

You can also follow the progress on the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area facebook page:


Pictures of Before, During and After
Click Here





This project was made possible with a grant from the USFWS Connecting People with Nature - Let's Go Outside fund.

lets go outside

An additional small grant came from the South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society.


USFWS couldn't do this alone - many thanks go to the staff of South Dakota Game Fish & Parks for their participation during all aspects of the project -

Pat Buscher
Eileen Dowd Stukel
Maggie Lindsey
Dave Ode
Ryan Raynor
Pat Thompson


The Activity Guide by Jen Fowler was made possible through the SDGFP Wildlife Division Small Grants Program.

Thanks go to the many students that participated in classroom activities to help grow plants and decorate the garden.

Thanks to Colleen Thompson for helping coordinate activities at the garden.

Thanks to Amanda Bachmann, SDSU Extension Entomologist.

A big Thank You to all the volunteers who will help plant the perennials June 15.

Photos have been provided by:
Doug Backlund and Gary Marrone

Thanks to Gary Marrone for his inspiration to getting all of us interested in butterflies. Look for his book Field Guide to Butterflies of South Dakota, published in 2002.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell photo by Gary Marrone




This website was created by Charlene "Charlie" Bessken. If you are interested in helping with this project, feel free to email me at



Last updated: March 21, 2017

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