Karen Miranda Abel

Migration Garden

Female Monarch laying eggs on Butterfly Milkweed Female Monarch laying eggs on Butterfly Milkweed
Monarch egg on Swamp Milkweed Monarch egg on Swamp Milkweed
Monarch egg on Swamp Milkweed Monarch egg on Swamp Milkweed
Monarch caterpillar Monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar Monarch caterpillar




Migration Garden

Teluscape Park, Ontario Science Centre

A permanent site-specific living installation supported by the Ontario Science Centre and Ontario Arts Council, Migration Garden investigates the biology and migratory route of the Monarch butterfly.

Urban wildlife habitat is improvisational by nature. In the contemporary urban environment, wildlife struggling with displacement and habitat eradication must be increasingly resourceful and creative to survive. With this is mind, Migration Garden was created to fully realize the ecological potential of a small urban site occupying less than 200 square feet. Cast cement butterfly egg sculptures and native plants provide a self-sustaining urban micro-landscape of Monarch butterfly habitat. The orientation and shape of the bed – north-south – maps the migratory route of the Monarch. The northern portion of the garden represents southern Canada and the United States, and the southern tip – indicated by the bright yellow goldenrod – symbolizes Mexico, blooming in the fall to signal the annual period when millions of Monarchs begin a remarkable migration south to overwintering grounds in the trans-volcanic mountains of Michoacán, Mexico.

Dense Blazingstar (Liatris spicata), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicus), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Grey Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) and Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) provide larval hosts, nectar sources and shelter key to Monarch survival. A series of cast cement sun-basking sculptures represent the miniscule eggs that female Monarchs lay on milkweed plants. The sculptures absorb heat from the sun, creating basking areas where monarchs can collect warmth on cool mornings or dry out after rainfall; essential habitat elements for body temperature regulation and recovery as Monarchs are unable to fly in cold temperatures. Small spaces between the egg sculptures create dark crevices for Monarchs and other insects to escape wind and rain and hide from predators.

The Monarch is the world’s most recognized butterfly and one of the most common butterflies in Toronto. Now listed as a Species at Risk in Canada, habitat destruction and the use of insecticides and herbicides threaten the survival of the Monarch. The species must be able to locate sufficient habitat along the migratory route in order to survive. Habitat ‘stepping stones’ like the Migration Garden help support the needs of the Monarch wherever it travels.

Migration Garden is herbicide and pesticide free and certified as an international Monarch Habitat Waystation by Monarch Watch, an organization dedicated to conservation of the Monarch and its migratory habitat.

Special thanks to Ana Klasnja and Tiffany Hay.