The star of the show for butterfly gardens throughout North America is the Milkweed. It is both nectar and larval host plant exclusive to the Monarch butterfly. There are other butterflies that will nectar the Milkweed but, only the Monarch caterpillar will feed on it and on no other plant. The Milkweed leaves are poisonous to other insects and animals which is what gives the Monarch butterfly it’s toxic status as a defense mechanism. Milkweed is a must for any butterfly garden and is very easy to grow. Technically, it is a weed and so it will require very little care. It is drought tolerant, thrives in almost any type of soil, and reseeds readily. You will only need one Milkweed in your butterfly garden and in no time at all, there will be several new plants.
The Monarch butterfly population has greatly declined over the past few years. There are a few different environmental factors, both natural and man-made that researchers hold responsible for the low numbers. The amazing Monarch butterfly migrates every fall to a few choice spots to over-winter–a couple places along the California coast, and the most popular spot is in the mountains of central Mexico. There are a few organizations that monitor the Monarchs around the country, tagging and counting they keep watch. They all seem to agree that the Monarch butterfly still needs our help to increase their population. All we need to do is plant more Milkweed. Simple!!
By Robin Gravis
Robin’s Bloomin’ Butterflies
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