Heart of Louisiana: Allen's Acres
(WVUE) - "I call it growing butterflies from scratch," Charles Allen said. "Go out and plant plants that would grow caterpillars and then the caterpillars turn into the chrysalis eventually into the butterflies."
Dr. Charles Allen, a retired botanist and professor, has a yard full of flowers, butterflies and moths.
"I've been trying to record the number of moths that show up at my property, so I'm up to 640 species," he said.
That's more moths than people who live in the small west central Louisiana town of Pitkin, population 576.
Mcnamara: Did you have any idea when you started counting that you would end up with more than 600 moths?
Allen: I didn't at first it was to get to 300, then to 400, you know each time, right now to get to 700.
Allen attracts the moths at night, on white sheets under a light. By day, a variety of flowering plants attract the caterpillars that turn into a chrysalis and then butterflies. There are monarchs, lots of yellow butterflies, the orange Gulf fritillary that starts as an orange caterpillar and transforms into colorful butterflies.
"Butterflies and moths generally live about two weeks, the flying ones, and most of these other things are about a week," Allen said.
Allen is a big proponent of using native plants. His 26 acres are full of naturally growing Louisiana plants.
"There are many butterflies, many moths, many other insects and other animals that can only eat a particular native plant," he said. "And if you brought in another, they're not going to make it."
Mcnamara: So how high is the plant count on Allen acres now?
Allen: it was around 450 species that we found of plants.
He calls this place Allen Acres. It's also a bed and breakfast, which makes it easier for guests to spend some time here and experience the natural surroundings.
"There's still raw nature out there that you don't have to have trees planted in rows and sidewalks and things there," Allen said.
And the breakfast eggs couldn't be any fresher.
"My wife tells me not to say this, but I sometimes say the eggs are so fresh they were in a chicken's butt last night," Allen said.
Although he has retired from the university classroom, Allen hasn't lost his passion for teaching.
"I just love being outside and love to work with plants and love to teach people how to identify plants," he said.
And Allen figures the more that people know about plants, insects and nature, the more they will want to protect it for future generations.
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