A 501(c)3 Non-Profit

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We raise Monarch butterflies in terrariums in the Orchard store and educational center from egg to larva to chrysalis to butterfly. Each fall we tag the migrating generation prior to release. So far we have had six of our tags recovered in their over-wintering grounds in Mexico. Why do we do it? We hatch the monarchs to help save them from natural enemies and to delight in the life cycle of this beautiful gift of nature. Monarchs are one of the great pollinators—a major player in the eco-system that keeps the Orchard producing delicious heirloom apples. Each step is an experience we love to share  with our visitors. 
Preserving the natural environment is an important part of our mission and monarch butterflies continue to top that list. Elizabeth Hunter, writer, teacher, and mentor got us started. She wondered if monarchs could coexist in a traditional, carefully controlled, chemical apple orchard. Enlisting cofounders Kit Trubey and Judy Carson, the trio soon discovered the answer was YES.

The Orchard is a natural home of milkweed, the larval host plant for monarchs. The only place female monarchs lay eggs is the underside of milkweed leaves. The three women soon planted a flower garden with Monarch-attractive flowers that would fuel their annual migration to over-winter in Mexico. They trained the orchard field crew to preserve the milkweed and the store staff to collect the eggs and nurture them through the amazing life cycle of egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

The butterfly dries out from its chrysalis birth, tests its new wings and flies away. Those born in September, generally the 6th generation of the year, fly all the way to Mexico, more than 1,500 miles from the Orchard, where they spend the winter. Hunter introduced us to Monarch Watch where we trained in the art of tagging the migrating butterflies. Six of the hundreds the Orchard has tagged over the years have been found in Mexico at the migration site.

However, the number of Monarchs through the Orchard has decreased significantly over our first 25 years. That increases our determination to be a monarch friendly stop on the monarch life cycle map.

Our monarch butterfly preservation project was featured in Blue Ridge Country Magazine,  in an article by naturalist and Orchard volunteer Elizabeth Hunter. Please take a moment and read the article,  “Saving the Good Stuff”. 

Learn more about monarch butterflies.


Milkweed for Monarchs!Milkweed, the larval plant for the monarch, is plentiful at The Orchard as are the monarchs. Unlike some other species of butterflies, monarchs have only one larval plant, so they depend on milkweed for survival. In areas where milkweed is scarce, monarchs are too. Unfortunately, the wild milkweed plant is frequently mowed down when development projects begin. We encourage you to plant milkweed around your home or property and to remind others to do the same. We are happy to share milkweed plants and seeds from our grounds to help others contribute to preserving this species

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1025 Orchard Road

Spruce Pine, NC 28777

Blue Ridge Parkway
(mile marker 328.3)



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2021 HOURS

May 8-May 31

June 1-October 31

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