Butterflyway ranger Tara Magee

Volunteers in over 100 communities participated in the Butterflyway Project in 2020, planting wildflowers throughout their neighbourhoods. (Photo: Tara Magee)

Just as the pandemic was starting, residents from more than 100 communities throughout Canada were beginning to grapple with another new challenge: How to fulfil their new role as David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway Rangers. When the keen volunteers applied to participate in late February, the task of connecting with friends and neighbours and encouraging them to plant native wildflowers seemed less daunting.

What happened next was truly inspiring.

Armed with a few webinars’ worth of online training, the new crew of Butterflyway Rangers began emailing, texting, messaging and Zooming their way through their networks and neighbourhoods. They enlisted new recruits who could help spread the word, and began planting seeds — figuratively and literally — that would quickly grow and blossom.

Rangers spread the word, and began planting seeds — figuratively and literally — that would quickly grow and blossom. 

From the 250 volunteers who became Butterflyway Rangers in 2020, these are just a few of the remarkable stories:

  • Ranger Katherine recruited a few like-minded residents of Halton Hills, Ontario, for a spring planting in a local park. By end of summer, 51 households had joined the Halton Hills Butterflyway and the crew planted hundreds of wildflowers in parks and at town hall.
  • Rangers Patrick and Melissa knocked on hundreds of doors in Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood, handing out brochures made at a local school and convincing 60 neighbours to plant butterfly gardens.
  • In Calgary, Ranger David recruited his neighbourhood association to help establish the Beddington Butterflyway, Alberta’s first official Butterflyway. They added native wildflowers to planters on a main street, and 30 households created their own pollinator patch.
  • Ranger Dorte and the Cliffcrest Butterflyway team in Scarborough, Ontario, created an impressive website and grew more than 1,000 native wildflowers from seeds and distributed them to neighbours and local schools
  • Winnipeg Rangers established over 30 Butterflyway gardens in schools and yards and parks in partnership with the Winnipeg Wildflower Project and Manitoba Master Gardeners.
  • Ranger Jessica and her crew created a new organization, Pollinate Collingwood, and established two dozen new pollinator plantings in their Ontario town.
  • Ranger Julie in Markham, Ontario, ordered wildflower kits from a local native plant nursery for over a dozen friends and neighbours, and organized safe plant pickups from her porch.
  • Keen rangers in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and Markham and Toronto, Ontario, all dug into their mission to plant native wildflowers, transforming their entire front yards into butterfly sanctuaries.
  • Ranger Karen made 28 Butterflyway classroom presentations and partnered with classes and a local youth group to plant butterfly gardens in Riverview, New Brunswick
  • Rangers Dani and Shiri went to work at their workplaces, establishing pollinator and food gardens at their Toronto offices. Ranger Carey convinced her employer to provide native wildflowers for her clients in Winnipeg and Calgary.

What these keen residents and their many recruits have shown is that getting your hands dirty and connecting with community brought a bit of joy, and a splash of colour, to these dark times. Whether Rangers were seeking a creative outlet or sense of community, or simply wanted to get gardening, their collective impact is inspiring — with the added benefit of creating habitat for local critters.

As the fourth year of the Butterflyway Project came to a close, the efforts of the 1,008 Rangers from more than 100 communities that have been part of the project since it began were recognized by the Canadian Museum of Nature, which awarded the 2020 Nature Inspiration Award to the project.

Getting your hands dirty and connecting with your community can bring joy, and a splash of colour, to these dark times. 

As we move into the new year, we applaud the efforts of the Rangers and their friends, colleagues and neighbours who helped spread a little butterfly-filled joy this year. And we look forward to the countless seeds they have planted in their neighbourhoods continuing to blossom in 2021.

P.S. If you’re inspired by the Butterflyway Project and have the energy and enthusiasm to be a Ranger, stay tuned. We will be recruiting our next troop of Butterflyway Rangers in late January.