Rosalynn Carter marks her 95th birthday by celebrating butterfly conservation efforts

Associated Press | John Bazemore

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter is the second-oldest U.S. first lady ever. On Thursday, she turned 95, but she and her husband, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, 97, celebrated on Saturday with a visit to see some butterflies.

Mrs. Carter has been fascinated by the pollinators since she was a young child. Several years ago, she decided to take action after learning about the declining population of monarch butterflies. And the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, in Carter’s hometown of Plains, Georgia, was born.

After establishing a garden comprised of native milkweed, the only host plant for monarch butterflies, at the Carter’s home, Mrs. Carter’s longtime friend and neighbor Annette Wise planted another garden nearby that the public could visit. The garden led to the butterfly trail, which features 76 public and private gardens around rural Plains.

Here’s a recent image of a monarch caterpillar chomping up the milkweed on the trail.

On Aug. 13, the Carters attended the dedication of a new butterfly sculpture on the property next to her childhood home, which is part of the trail. At sunset, Mrs. Carter turned on a light that illuminated the sculpture.

The trail, a nonprofit organization, shared a post in honor of its founder’s birthday.

“In honor of Mrs. Carter’s upcoming birthday, the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail partnered with a number of organizations across the state and has worked to establish more habitat for pollinators with an emphasis to include native milkweed for Monarchs,” the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail wrote in a Facebook post. “Mrs. Carter’s love for Monarch butterflies began when she was a young girl. In 2013, she learned of the declining number of Monarchs and decided to have native milkweed included in her garden in Plains so Monarch caterpillars would thrive. That garden was the inspiration in establishing the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail. We now have public, private as well as school gardens registered on the trail.”

Bess Truman, the wife of President Harry Truman and first lady from 1943 until 1953, died in 1982 at age 97 as the longest-living former first lady. Jimmy Carter, who will turn 98 on Oct. 1, is the oldest former president. The dedication marked a rare public appearance for the Carters.

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