Friday, May 10, 2013

Milkweed and Monarchs- will you help?

Texas is fortunate in that the eastern (east of the Rockies) population of Monarchs passes through Texas on the way to and from their overwintering sites in Mexico.  It is always a glorious site to see the Monarchs in the spring and late summer/ fall.  The butterflies overwinter in areas of mountain tops in Central Mexico.  Many people think that the decline (at least for the Monarchs that come and go through Texas) is because of the decline of the overwintering locations in Mexico.  While habitat loss in Mexico is certainly a factor, there is another factor that I hope, with help from citizens can be reduced.

The second factor of Monarch decline is loss of milkweed plant populations within the United States.  Milkweed is often considered a weed (a weed is a plant that is out of place), especially when it's found in areas where other, more desirable plants are growing.  As a weed, the milkweed is destroyed, decreasing the amount of food available for migrating Monarch populations.  You can hear more about this from Science Friday here.

So how can you help?  By planting milkweed!  If we can get citizens to plant milkweed in their yards, in community gardens, in school gardens or even cooperate with county and city programs to encourage milkweed in parks and other common areas, then maybe the Monarchs will have islands of milkweed to support their life cycle.  While I'm not sure if it will work, I think it's worth a shot.

You can find milkweed at local nurseries or you can buy seeds online.  Monarch Watch actually has a seed kit that can be purchased for $10 on their website that contains three species of milkweed- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa); Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca); Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).  All three species are native to Texas so you don't have to worry about bringing in something weird.  The Native Plant Society of Texas has information on milkweed here.   The Xerces Society has information on milkweed and their Project Milkweed here and you can link to sellers of milkweed seeds for specific regions of the country (including Texas).

So, have you bought your plants or seeds yet?  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and get planting. 

Pssssstt....spread the word to everyone you know.  We need all the help we can get!


dm said...

Monarchs are insatiable. Every year they completely consume the Asclepias tuberosa I try to grow. Not complaining ... just realizing I need to plant even more. lol

Wizzie Brown said...

Yes, plant more! Did you grown your A. tuberosa from seed or did you find the plants at a nursery?