PILSEN — A neighborhood group is giving out native plants and raising awareness about how people can build their own gardens to benefit pollinators and butterflies.
The intention is to make plants more accessible and promote community involvement in gardens and butterfly preservation, said Claudia Galeno-Sanchez, Women for Green Spaces’ coordinator. The group recognizes the role women play in getting involved with schools and the community for the benefit of their families and works closely with its sister organization, Working Family Solidarity, she said.
“We want to have a greener, more beautiful Pilsen,” Galeno-Sanchez said. “But not just Pilsen. We want Pilsen to be a model for other neighborhoods. We want people to see this and follow the same thing we’re doing here.”
Galeno-Sanchez said she and her family started keeping caterpillars and butterflies in the home with smaller kits, but decided to grow their operation outdoors so they could raise even more butterflies and teach others.
Now, their home near Harrison Park — which is decorated with painted butterflies — has a large, netted butterfly sanctuary in the front yard with milkweed and other host plants for monarch and black swallowtail butterflies.
“People will be able to come and see how the host plants and the native plants work and they will take the idea to their gardens,” Galeno-Sanchez said. “In this way, we will be able to reach more gardens.”
Soon, the home’s backyard will hold an even larger butterfly sanctuary that people can visit and walk through.
The group has also been able to give away host plants and native plants to others in the community through donations from the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Field Museum, Galeno-Sanchez said.
“They’re stronger, and they also have more nutrients, not just for the butterflies but for pollinators in general,” she said.
Daisy Solis, another member of Women for Green Spaces, said it’s important to make these plants more easily accessible to the neighborhood and educate others on their environmental impact.
“Whenever you go to Home Depot or any of those places, all you see are beautifying plants or flowers, but for the native plants, you do need to go to special nurseries or even buy them online like I did,” Solis said. “They can also be more expensive.”
The group recently started a butterfly sanctuary at Orozco Community Academy and has plans for one at Whittier Dual Language School.
Solis said the group has heard from community members and parents who are excited for these community gardens.
“This area, in specific Pilsen, doesn’t have a lot of green spaces compared to the North Side,” Solis said.
A recent report by the Tribune showed just how stark the difference is, with the city planting more trees in wealthier, whiter areas than others.
Galeno-Sanchez said sometimes the work can be difficult, especially as the days get warmer. But when she sees her kids getting involved and witnesses flowers growing and the chrysalises hatching, “it’s all worth it,” she said.
Galeno-Sanchez said her two kids have helped with their gardens and butterfly sanctuaries immensely, and their interest in the environment and nature has grown. Her daughter, Claudita, has even enlisted the help of her pet guinea pig, Canela.
“And we have Canela as the lawnmower — she eats the grass,” Claudita said.
Visit Women For Green Spaces’ Facebook page here for updates and to get involved.
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