I love Milkweed plants. Even though they grow wild around here and are considered ‘weeds’ by some, I let them grow in amongst my flower gardens. I used to pull them out! Yikes!! That’s until I discovered that Milkweed is VERY important to the Monarch Butterfly.
Milkweeds are the only plants on which the monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed. No milkweed, no monarchs. I noticed a few years ago, that there weren’t nearly as many Monarchs flittering around here as the year before. I researched online and found out that there is a serious decline in the Monarch population in North America.
One report stated “In the 1990s, up to one billion monarchs made the flight each fall from the northern U.S. and Canada to the forests north of Mexico City, and more than one million overwintered in forested groves on the California coast. Now, researchers and citizen scientists estimate that only about 56.5 million monarchs remain, representing a decline of more than 80 per cent from the 21-year average across North America.”
Another news report this summer said “One of the most widely recognized butterflies in North America, the monarch, is disappearing fast. Most of that decline is blamed on changing land use, but property owners can help shore up the population by setting aside monarch “way stations” filled with milkweed and other nectar-rich plants. The extent of the milkweed-monarch habitat loss since 1996 is believed to be an area roughly the size of Texas.”
I was determined to do my part to help bring back the Monarch butterfly. Whenever I have the opportunity, I encourage Milkweed to grow on my property. I let them spread by root and go to seed, hoping that more plants will come up next year. The Milkweed isn’t taking over my flower beds and actually looks quite attractive mixed in with the rest of my ‘cottage-style’ garden.
I’m glad I made this observation about the missing Monarchs several years ago because now I have a good start on my Milkweed-enhanced garden. Since I read that the most effective response is planting monarch “way stations” or habitats to provide the resources needed to produce successive generations of monarchs and sustain them during their migration, I believe I’m on the right track.