By Jason Giovannettone, Climate and Sustainability Director
Planting season is underway. Prior to moving into our current home a few years ago, I did not know a lot about planting flowers, let alone the various benefits that might come with planting one type of flower over another other. That changed about two years ago when I got involved with a native plant giveaway sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation at my local church. I brought home milkweed and several other native plants. With very little care other than regular watering, these plants grew substantially over the summer. The milkweed, for example, produced over 100 purple flowers from one stem by late summer and into fall. This one stem multiplied into 13 large stems the following spring, which I would estimate produced over 500 flowers.
Milkweed is a great native plant; it is easy to grow and maintain and it supports the monarch butterfly population and other types of butterflies are highly dependent on it as a source of food and as a place on which to lay their eggs during their long migrations. Did you know that it takes 4 generations of monarch butterflies to complete a full migration? They travel from central Mexico to their summer breeding range in the northern US and back to Mexico. Sustaining so many monarchs during this migration requires milkweed and other native flowering plants. Both urban and agricultural land development have led to substantial losses of habitat that supports these plants, resulting in an approximate 90% drop in monarch populations since the 1990s. Please watch the following video for more details regarding monarch migrations and issues related to their demise.
Become more aware of the issues surrounding the loss of monarch butterflies and their native habitats. Learn about what is currently being done to reverse these trends. The Mercy Monarch Milkweed Project, which is where I obtained some of the information above, is a great place to begin: https://mercyecology.org/monarch-milkweed-project.
During the months of April and May, there tend to be various native plant giveaways, which often include milkweed. Please try to take advantage of such giveaways or support a local nursery through the purchase of native plants such as milkweed.