Thursday, April 10, 2014

Calling All North American Gardeners - Help!

If you want to keep seeing this:

Monarch butterfly
you are going to need this:

Monarch laying eggs
Help our Monarchs make babies...

a baby Monarch
plant Milkweed!

one type of milkweed - Asclepias tuberosa
As the population of Monarchs dwindles severely, the great migration of the Monarchs is in serious danger of becoming extinct. 

area of land occupied by Monarchs at their overwintering sites in Mexico
source - Monarch Joint Venture 
The Monarchs have taken a battering on all sides.  Harsh weather and habitat loss have led to record low numbers of these beautiful butterflies in North America. 


While we have no control over the weather, we can plant Milkweed in order to help the monarchs as much as possible! 

Milkweed is especially critical in the Great Plains regions.  With the rise of corn prices (due in part to the government mandate of adding ethanol to gasoline), millions of acres of grasslands have now been converted to Corn and Soybean farms.  

Furthermore, these large farms are switching to the new varieties that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides (such as Roundup Ready Corn).  The spraying of herbicides has eliminated the milkweed that used to sprout up in and around the crops - and thus eliminated much of the breeding ground for Monarchs.

Monarch laying eggs on Milkweed
So calling all North American gardeners - especially you all in the Great Plains region!

Let's do what we can to save the migration...


and hopefully not witness the end of an era.


Milkweed comes in a variety of colors, and there are Milkweeds for just about every type of garden, from dry to swampy.
Here are just a few online sources for Milkweed seeds and plants:

21 comments:

  1. Great post, Indie. I hope it's OK to share this with friends? I planted several Milkweeds last year, and sprinkled some seeds around in the fall. I'm trying to convince as many people as I can to do the same. I'm also helping to establish several pollinator gardens in the Madison area. Hope to see at least a few monarchs this summer. :)

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    1. Oh definitely! The more people helping out, the better! The pollinator gardens sound like such a great project to be involved in. Hopefully we can help the Monarchs and other pollinators out, especially after such crazy weather!

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  2. Thank you for this post Indie! I'll do my part.

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    1. Thanks! The Monarchs need all the help they can get.

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  3. Planting more milkweed every year. This year I started some from seed indoors and it is almost ready to go out. Hopefully I'll see some monarchs this year. Last year I only saw one flying overhead in the fall and it didn't stop in my garden.

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    1. That is too bad :( I was in the middle of moving last year and didn't see many monarchs, but the year before I got several on my milkweed. I hope they make it to your patch to enjoy all your milkweed this year! (And hopefully all those babies will make it up north to where I am now!)

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  4. I was at a District meeting of Garden Clubs yesterday and one of the vendors was selling Swamp Milkweed seed. I usually collect my own each Fall to distribute (on park lands), but still purchased his to plant in large pots in my garden. The problem with Milkweed I planted previously at the parks, is that there were no caterpillars to be found. This gentleman also sells the caterpillars and protective netting which I will get at the end of May to raise. I guess if we don't get the Migration this year, it is a way of at least getting some on their way.

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    1. How interesting that he raises Monarchs - I wonder what his setup looks like for that. I have wintersowed some seeds this year, but I will probably order some plants as well in case they don't come up. Hopefully some Monarchs will make it up here to enjoy all the milkweed!

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  5. As someone who lives in the heart of corn and soybean country, I can vouch for the fact that you don't see much milkweed growing wild anymore. When I was younger, my dad would pay us to pull it out of his bean fields, where it often was in thick patches. I have some Butterfly Weed, and I planted some swamp milkweed seeds this winter--fingers crossed they will germinate. I think Prairie Nursery may even have the plants on sale right now. Thanks for spreading the word!

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    1. I'm glad that at least one gardener over there has some butterfly weed! Hopefully the gardeners can help take over since the milkweed has disappeared from the fields. I hope your seeds grow for you and you get a lot of monarchs!

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  6. Ironic, isn't it, that everything we do has some effect on the environment, even when we are trying to do something good for the planet? Ethanol started out as a great idea, then the various downsides starting becoming apparent. This pattern is repeated over and over - protect one species, endanger another, etc. That said, I've had milkweed in my garden for years and have never seen any monarch caterpillars, and have seen monarchs only in early fall when they are migrating through. Sad!

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    1. It is so hard. It seems like if you try to balance one thing, something else becomes unbalanced. There seem to be so many species struggling for survival. At least monarchs live in several different countries including Australia, so they are not in danger of going extinct yet, but it would be very sad to lose the great migration here in North America.

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  7. Hi Indie
    Thanks for letting me know that I should NOT keep ripping out the milk"weed" near the side yard. This year not only will I let it grow, I may plant extra! Monarchs are too precious to lose.

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    1. Ha, that is good to hear! Milk'weed' (or even butterfly 'weed' as many call it) has such an unfortunate name! While it has probably long been considered a weed by farmers and such, it's now become quite a valuable gardening plant!

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  8. Great post Indie, although for us over here in Britain, monarchs are exotic butterflies that only once in a while get lost and end up here in our gardens. They are not meant to be here and can’t overwinter. I have never seen one myself, only on TV and blogs. You are so fortunate to have them.

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    1. We are fortunate to have them (and hopefully continue to have them!), and they are so pretty, too. They've been introduced to warmer places like Australia and Hawaii and done well, but yeah, I can see Britain being too cold for them.

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  9. Indie - I am SO with you on this project. I had only one milkweed plant make it through the winter so I planted new seeds for this year.

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    1. I hope the new seeds sprout and grow well for you! The more milkweed the better!

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  10. I have had no success with milkweed, but I keep trying! It scares me when plants are genetically engineered to resist herbicide. So now our corn will contain small amount of herbicides, along with the pesticides they use. Butterflies don't have a chance, and some day humans may not either.

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    1. It is definitely scary. And all of this is in the food supply! So sad.

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  11. Fabulous and I am glad you posted to remind folks...awaiting seeing my milkweed starting...I added more last fall. I'm ready.

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