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Horticulture topics from gardens to lawns and then some.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
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Make Creating a Monarch Waystation a Goal for This Season

Things sure do seem to be getting clean outside. Not clean in the ordinary sense of course, but in terms of weeds. Our yards are cleaner, farms are cleaner. For the past century humans have spent a lot of energy, time and money on cleaning up the landscape. It has led to increased farm yields, and large luxurious weed-free lawns. Sounds pretty good, right? Well not so good if you happen to depend on some of those 'weeds'.

Let's take a look at the Monarch butterfly, a species struggling in our new 'clean' landscape. Each fall hundreds of millions of Monarchs make their annual migration from the US and Canada to overwintering sites in Mexico, California and the southern tip of Florida. It is truly a sight to behold, as the Monarchs follow the 'golden highway' a.k.a. the wildflower goldenrod as it progressively blooms north to south through autumn, leading the Monarchs to their overwintering sites.

Last year Monarch researchers recorded an enormous drop in the Monarch over-wintering population. Currently, the Monarch is being considered to be added to the list of endangered species. While the reasons for the Monarch population crash are complex, involving everything from climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, disease and natural enemies, there is a very simple solution and you can be a part of it. We need some messiness in our landscapes.

Now, I really don't want you to think of what I'm about to propose as messy. In fact it will be anything but messy. Instead you will create a space of habitat that blooms all season long and will be a wonderful place to explore and observe. And last time I checked, these are things everybody enjoys, young or old.

I want you to consider making it a goal to plant habitat to support the Monarch butterfly and then have that spot certified as a Monarch Waystation. There are only two basic things you need to achieve both of these goals- and those are milkweed and nectar plants.

Milkweed is the only larval food source for the Monarch caterpillar; therefore, making it's reintroduction in your landscape critical to the Monarch's survival.

The adult monarch butterfly receives nourishment from the nectar in flowers. By providing nectar sources through a continuously blooming garden, you will support the monarch butterflies during the entire growing season and supply a critical food source during migration in the fall.

And to make it even easier,, the group that coordinates the Waystation program, will send you a kit with everything you need to get your waystation started.

You can learn more about Monarch Watch's waystation program by going to their website HERE.

Having a waystation in your backyard will not only benefit monarchs, but other wildlife as well. Waystations can be wonderful teaching tools for everyone.

Monarch butterflies are one of the most well-recognized species of wildlife out there. Everyone has grown up learning about the monarch. We've worked hard to clean up our landscape, but let's not forget all those that depend on the messy things in life as we work to preserve monarchs for generations to come.

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Excellent article, Chris. The link is very helpful as well.
by Sandra Odell on Tuesday 7/7/2015