Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Helping the Monarch Butterflies with a Few Seeds

Down in Mexico there's a "semi-secret" place.

High above a small city in a forest this place is a gathering place for millions of Monarch butterflies.  

It's the place where the Monarchs that are East of the Rocky Mountains overwinter.  The descendents of the butterflies floating anywhere North of that valley in the Sierra Madre mountains in Michoacan State in Mexico make it to spot just so they can survive the winter in peace.  The western populations have their own overwintering place in Southern California.

The ones that I see here in Florida are beautiful but they are here all year.  They don't travel far, and I consider that a blessing since I enjoy having them as neighbors and visitors. 

The problem is that this year, the count of Monarchs was very low in Mexico. 

I got involved, and it's very simple.  Plant Milkweed seeds wherever you can find the room. 

When I saw the original article, it was posted by a local friend here, Constance.  I simply asked if she had seeds.   Thanks to Constance, our own local population will have another grazing place in a few weeks under the eaves of my backyard shed.

Milkweed grows best in a spot that is well watered and not completely full sun.  On the other hand, if you're out of South Florida, your plants will be different since mine is the fully tropical Mexican Variety like in this Wikipedia picture.

I also carry a few seeds with me.  If I find a place that I think it can grow undisturbed, a few accidentally fall from my pocket.

Accidentally of course.

Milkweed varieties grow all over the US and Canada, but if you can't find the stuff, a stop in at a nursery for some "Butterfly plants".  They are rarely the showy plants with giant blossoms, but since you're growing them for the butterflies, you'll get your beauty from these visitors.

There are plenty of charities that will be able to help if you're in a city or just aren't a gardener.  This is one.

The easiest thing is simply to plant some flowering plants.  The butterflies will stop by and be on their way, and you as a property owner will get the pleasure of a better garden and a little better property value.

I will say that the Mexican Milkweed I grow in pots end up being little sticks.  One quirk I have noticed is that the Monarchs come in waves here in South Florida.  They'll float into the garden and find the milkweed, lay an egg and be on their way.  Others will follow.   A few weeks later, I find a caterpillar chewing on the leaves and stalks of my plants and I'm left with those sticks.  All goes quiet until the milkweed comes back, and the cycle repeats.

You can ignore the milkweed, the Monarchs will keep it trimmed back pretty effectively as a result.

1 comment:

  1. The milkweed is flowering in my backyard now. When it is just sticks, as you noted, I cut it back, and it gets leaves and flowers again. We have butterflies all day long in our yard. They also love the duranta we have growing. By the way, a week or so ago, I posted our orchid had not bloomed. The next day I looked at it again, and it has two flowers on it - better than none!