Plant Milkweed!

If you want to do one thing to help save this incredible animal, then plant milkweed that is native to your area and free from all pesticides. No, Monarchs are not listed as endangered and their population started to increase in 2016 but they are still greatly imperiled.  Unfortunately, just before their migration started this year a severe ice storm hit their over-wintering site in Mexico and the mortality rate is still being estimated.
Why is milkweed so important?  It is the only plant that the monarch butterfly will lay its eggs on and that the caterpillar will eat.  She must find a milkweed plant or the next generation will be born into starvation. The milkweed population numbers are down 90%. So, this is why it is so important to rebuild the monarch’s habitat by planting milkweed.

Why native milkweed plants?  You do not want to interrupt the migration cycle.  Many times exotic milkweed may be the only milkweed available in the nurseries because it is showy but planting these may prolong their natural urge to leave on their incredible journey. Also, a parasite (OE) that is detrimental to the monarch may linger on the plant damaging many generations of monarchs.  The reason is because this plant in warmer climates does not die back like the native species.  So, gardeners in southern, coastal areas can reduce disease by cutting back the plant Nov.- Feb. and replace the exotic milkweed with native milkweeds.  They are not always easy to find but it is worth taking the time to find native milkweed.  First try native plant growers and go to native plant sales.

Plants that are free from pesticides has to be obvious.  But, many well-meaning volunteers helping to raise monarchs have bought milkweed from some big box stores to feed to the  caterpillars but when they eat the leaves, they vomited and died.


“Monarch Caterpillars Eat Only Milkweed” painting © Jane Kim at   “Inspiring people to love and protect the Earth one work of art at a time”

How to Find the Milkweed That is Native to Your State

Milkweeds attracts many pollinators and produce some of the most complex flowers, comparable to orchids in complexity. The large spherical disc called the umbel can contain 10-200 sweet-smelling flowers and range in many colors from green to pink. All milkweed carry the name ‘Asclepias’ in front being from the family Asclepiadace. So, look for that name on the label of your plant or seed package.  Here are some sites to help you find the milkweed for your state.

Here is a great webinar on growing milkweed from seed:


Happy Planting and Happy Earth Day (April 22nd)!

Photo Apr 14, 2 21 56 PM
Antelope Horns–Asclepias asperula Photo by Lotus McElfish © 2016

Each flower has 4 petals, a corona that has 5 nectar filled cup-like hoods out of which extend little curved horns, and a corpusculum that has 2 arms.  A golden package of pollen called a pollinarium is attached to each translator arm.

Learn, Give Thought, Be Inspired, Take Action………Bring Back Balance

Lotus McElfish

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