Toronto has a secret outdoor butterfly garden and it's free to visit
The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat (HBBH) is a naturesque pocket in Toronto dedicated solely to attracting urban wildlife—specifically, the fluttering wings of native butterflies.
Located in Humber Bay Park East, just south of the Waterfront Trail, it's less than a ten minute bike ride from the Humber Bay Arch Bridge.
You can find this secluded open-air butterfly paradise by continuing west on the dusty bike trail from the bridge, where you'll eventually spot a giant rock indicating the entrance to the HBBH.
First opened in 2002, what was once an unkempt strip on Marine Parade Drive has been restored into a beautiful landscape full of coneflowers, black-eyed susans, lavender, and trembling aspen trees.
It's sandwiched between Humber Bay and a cluster of condos, but you'll be secluded from the sight of the towering Ocean Club Waterfront Condos or the Eau Du Soleil Water Tower, for the most part.
The space is maintained by a community stewardship program, which meets every Wednesday between 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone who wants to learn about the space, and maybe even help prune a weed or two, is welcome to drop by at that time.
Butterfly species will visit the HBBH between April and mid-October, and it's more than likely you'll spot at least a few fluttering around during nice weather. According to the Habitat, "warm, sunny days with little wind" are your best bet.
The most commonly spotted butterfly here is definitely the Monarch, with its bright orange wings and white spots. Head here during the first three weeks of September and you'll catch them dancing in clusters before migrating down to central Mexico for the winter.
Just keep in mind that Monarchs often get confused with their cousins, the Viceroys, which are also orange but smaller in size.
Don't fret if you can't tell the two apart: there are actually handy, weather-proof books scattered around the park that will help you identify the most popular native species, including the Red Admiral, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, American Painted Lady, or the Mourning Cloak.
As you walk through the park, you'll notice three different types of habitats. There's the short grass prairie, made up of low-growing plants and trees (good for insect perching), wildflower meadows, and the Home Garden, where you can relax and watch the butterflies.
George Hornaday. Additional photos by Tanya Mok.
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