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Butterflies and golf.....

Following on from yesterday, about this wonderful butterfly garden…as mentioned, I sat down with the GM, Ian Gardner, to understand more about this great project, and to learn more about the drive to do this.

Ian explained that this whole movement was born from a desire for responsible management with a focus on the environment; from a personal passion, to improve members experience, and to raise the positive perception of the golf club.

Working with aec (aec is a private eco/biodiversity consultancy with an expert team of ecologists, arborists and landscape professionals. was a logical step, with their expertise, and then changing and improving where necessary to get the goal of “The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Certification”, which is the gold standard for environmental management of golf courses. The plan, planting, and management of the new butterfly garden, which started just 18 months ago, was part of this. Now with aec’s professional help and expertise they monitor the wildlife biodiversity with camera traps and regular reviews. They can now boast 110 species of butterfly having been seen in the garden; and overall 600 moth species (who appreciate the lack of light pollution); 70+ birds; some rare mammals too, and some even rarer swamp Cyprus trees.

So there are two main things that impressed me the most:

  1. Firstly, that they clearly had an end goal in mind with a 5 year management plan (the certification achieved at the start of 2020, and member experience), and a route to get there, with careful planning and then monitoring. This deepens their understanding of the Golf Course as a wildlife habitat, and allows for even better decisions.

  2. The other thing (especially as the area is not too large) was the amount and variation of butterflies that I saw in my one hour visit. The experience of having multiple different butterflies around is just phenomenal, and to have them swarm in great numbers near you is not an experience that you ever forget. I would argue that this type of nature experience is key to nature education.

The difficult to find common rose and both species of birdwing butterfly were present in numbers, as the Indian birthwort vine (the toxic food plant of these butterflies) was planted and has grown well (also a protected plant) so these numbers will only grow and grow.

The milkweed butterflies (tigers and crows) were numerous around the cleverly planted plants that they love. I say cleverly planted, because they were around the edges of the pathways, so adults and children can go right up to them and experience the wonder of nature as they take flight, swarm around you, and even land on you. What a magical experience for any person.

What I also love about this project is their openness to share it with the general public. They already do a lot of ecology tours with excellent dedicated and knowledgeable guides, which take in various areas of the course, including the butterfly garden. The location of the garden is between holes 9 and 10 of the Old Course and adjacent to the Old Course Halfway House, itself a listed heritage building which opened in 1916. So plenty to see and do for kids and adults and a great experience.

To organise a (school or other educational) visit please contact Alex:

All pictures below taken during my one hour visit in late November.


So with a bit of vision, some expertise, a bit of money, and some ongoing management a golf course team have created something that far outshines anything that the AFCD - and in particular the Lions Nature Education Centre (sic) - have managed to achieve. They have varied plants for larva (caterpillars) to eat, ensuring more butterflies will come and lay eggs in this habitat. This includes the Indian birthwort that I mentioned.

They have also got a varied range of food plants for butterflies, so they are ensured regular, multiple, and varied visitors. These are planted close to public walkways, ensuring a wonderful connection to nature.

Kadoorie Farm, Fung Yuen Butterfly Reserve, and now Fanling Golf course, all private enterprises, and all have the best butterfly gardens in Hong Kong. This is in contrast to the national and urban parks, and even Lions Nature Education Centre, where the Indian birthwort - despite being a protected plant - was torn out; and where actual butterflies and the experience of connecting with nature seems woefully lacking. I will do a separate blog about AFCD management later on….below is a teaser....

Case in point...the "butterfly alley/garden" at LNEC. Devastated by poor management, and high up above a wall, making any nature immersion impossible.


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