Address

1 Theodore Wirth Pkwy
Minneapolis, MN 55422

Contact

Phone: 612-370-4903
Email: ebwg@minneapolisparks.org
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Garden Hours

7:30 am to one hour before sunset
Mid-April through October 15

Visitor Shelter Hours

Monday-Saturday: 10 am to one hour before sunset 
Sunday: noon to one hour before sunset
April 1-October 15

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary

Part of: Theodore Wirth Regional Park

Activities & Amenities

Amenities

  • Drinking Fountain
  • Garden
  • Pay Parking Lot
  • Public Art
  • Restroom Facility
  • Visitor Shelter
  • Walking Path

Good to Know

The garden is home to more than 500 plant species and 130 bird species, and receives 60,000 visitors each year.

Beach, picnic shelters, and additional hiking trails located just outside the garden’s gate.

Other gardens in Theodore Wirth Regional Park:

Experience the Beauty of Nature

Our 12 gardens offer inviting spaces to explore, relax, and learn about the environment.

Garden Details

Trail: 2/3-mile with 49 interpretive stations for guided and self-guided tours 

Neighborhood: Bryn - Mawr

Service Area: Southwest

Commissioner District: 4

60,000 annual visitors enjoy spectacular seasonal displays of native wildflowers in woodland, wetland and prairie areas. Each area creates a different habitat that fosters different types of plants, animals and birds.

Nestled in the garden is the Martha Crone Visitor Shelter where you will find natural history displays, natural history reference materials and friendly staff and volunteers waiting to help with garden-related questions.

2010-2015 Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary Management Plan [PDF]

Peak Display Times

April and May (Woodland)
Bloodroot, wild ginger, trillium, bluebells, trout lilies

June and July (Wetland)
Showy lady’s-slippers, native irises, cardinal flowers

Mid- to Late-Summer (Prairie)
Asters, sunflowers, blazing stars, goldenrods

Fall (throughout)
Prairie grasses and autumn leaves

Rentals & Permits

Annual Patron Parking Permit: Enjoy parking privileges in specially designated spaces at some of our most popular regional parks. View parking permit details.

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden is not available for rentals.

History

As demand for the expansion of Glenwood Park grew, a new development gave the park one of its signature features, a unique wildflower garden that is cherished still. In early 1907 Eloise Butler, John Greer and others petitioned the park board for space in Glenwood Park to establish a botanical garden. The park board granted the request and set aside three acres of bog, meadow and hillside for the Wild Botanical Garden, the first public wildflower garden in the United States. The board also allocated a modest sum for paths and fencing of the area and on April 27, 1907 announced that the garden had opened.

The person who took charge of the garden as a volunteer was a retired botany teacher, Eloise Butler, who for years had taken her students to the park for botany lessons. Butler tended the garden for four years as a volunteer until in 1911 the Minneapolis Womans Club petitioned the park board to appoint a full-time curator for the garden. The club offered to pay half a year’s salary for a curator. When that wasn’t enough to get the park board to act, the club increased the offer to a full year’s salary if the park board would retain the position and pay the salary after that. The park board agreed. The person the  Womans Club recommended to be the curator was Eloise Butler.

Eloise Butler created such a magnificent wild garden—collecting, protecting, preserving and cataloguing wild plants and offering free botany classes—that the park board named the garden in her honor in 1929. In 1933, at the age of 81, she died on her way to work. Her ashes were spread in her garden and the park board held a memorial service and planted a pin oak tree in the garden in her honor, noting that “Every plant in her garden was her living child, upon whom she bestowed her devotion and care.”

Butler was succeeded by her assistant, Martha Crone, who remained in charge of the garden until 1959. Upon Crone’s retirement, she was succeeded by Ken Avery. The shelter in the garden is named for Crone and the terrace is named for Avery. An important addition to the park occurred in 1944, when Clinton O’Dell, a successful Minneapolis businessman—he created the Burma Shave rhymes seen along highways — and former botany student of Eloise Butler, contributed $3,000 to expand the garden to include ground for upland or prairie varieties of plants, rather than the primarily woodland plants that Butler’s original garden could accommodate. O’Dell also helped form in 1951 The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, which has contributed time and money for the maintenance and improvement of the garden ever since. 

History through 2008 written by David C. Smith, with updates from 2009 to present written by MPRB.

Historical Timeline

August 3, 1851: Eloise Butler is born on a farm near Appleton, Maine. Growing up roaming the woods, meadows and bogs, she pursues a career as a botany teacher.

1874: Eloise moves to Minneapolis and teaches school for 36 years, taking her students “botanizing” in the bogs of what is now Wirth Park. She also takes course work at Harvard University, Woods Hole and the University of Minnesota, and field work in Jamaica and Vancouver Island, BC.

1907: Eloise and other botany teachers successfully petition the Minneapolis Park Board to create a natural botanic garden to preserve native flora as the city grew. Three acres of bog, meadow and hillside are properly fenced and the Wild Botanic Garden opened April 27, 1907.

1911: Eloise retires from teaching and is officially appointed garden curator; for the first time she is paid for her gardening labor.

1924: The garden expands thanks to her persistence, spending $700 of her own money to fence five acres that need protecting. She adds to garden’s collection by moving plants from natural areas in Minneapolis and greater Minnesota, and importing from the East Coast. Calling herself a “Wild Gardener,” she sees her wild plant hunting as great adventure.

1927: The garden is re-named Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in her honor.

1933: Eloise Butler dies while working in the garden at age 81. Martha Crone, volunteer and friend, succeeds her as garden curator. She goes on to rescue plants from impending development. The garden expands and the upland prairie garden is created.

1952: Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Inc. is founded by Clinton Odell to support garden projects.

1959: Martha retires (she dies in 1989 at age 92). Ken Avery is designated head gardener. He adds plants native to Minnesota and is the first to use controlled burns to manage upland prairie.

1970s: Dutch Elm Disease and drought take their toll on shade-giving elms. As a result the garden becomes sunnier, the bog drier and wildflowers suffer. Replanting of trees and replacing wildflowers has been ongoing since the late 1970s.

1987: Ken retires and is succeeded by Cary George. He removes invasive species, installs trail signs, laminated maps and wooden station posts. The garden is expanded by one acre and native wildflower species are added. He maintains the garden’s historical context by adding and nurturing plant species that once flourished there, such as Tamarack.

2004: Susan Wilkins succeeds Cary George who retired in 2003. As garden curator, Susan develops volunteer programs to battle invasive species, expands adult and youth educational opportunities in Garden, and plants thousands of native plants annually. Susan co-facilitated the development of the Garden’s first Management Plan, adopted in 2010.

2015: The first section of a new boardwalk winding through the garden’s wetlands opens. The boardwalk’s decking was made from ash trees harvested as part of the MPRB Forestry Department’s Emerald Ash Borer Preparedness Program. The boardwalk bridge looking toward Mallard Pond is dedicated to Cary George.