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Support the Mighty Monarch- Let your Milkweed Grow!

May 12, 2014

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is perhaps the most recognizable butterfly in North America. Famous for its migration that spans thousands of miles and three to four generations annually, monarchs are a remarkable natural phenomenon and one that needs our attention.

Monarch numbers have declined since the 1990s. Reasons for this include loss of overwintering sites in Mexico and California due to deforestation and habitat degradation as well as loss of breeding habitat due to the ongoing decline of native milkweeds (Asclepias spp.).

Milkweeds are a hardy, common, perennial wildflower. With well over 100 species, you can find them just about anywhere. They frequently grow in prairies, meadows, open woods, forest margins, wetlands and along riverbanks. However, increased agricultural demand where few fields are left fallow combined with the development of rural lands and the use of mowing and herbicides to control pests have all diminished milkweed numbers.

Native milkweeds are integral to the monarch’s survival. Milkweed flower nectar is not only a food for adult monarchs, but milkweed is also the only plant that monarchs lay their eggs on and caterpillars feed on! Feeding on milkweed provides the perfect nutrition for a growing monarch caterpillar and provides them with their main defense against predators. As the caterpillars feed on milkweed, the presence of cardenolide aglycones, a type of steroid, makes them foul-tasting and poisonous to predators throughout their larval and adult stages.

We can support the monarch by planting a variety of milkweed species and letting it live where it’s found growing naturally. From white to pink to orange, their flowers add color and variety that’s also great for wildlife. Keep an eye out for our spring appeal containing milkweed seeds for the monarch.

Milkweeds like common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) pictured right are critical to the survival of the monarch butterfly. They are a key source of food for the butterfly and the required host plant for their caterpillars. Help these famous flyers by letting your milkweed grow!


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Conservation Resource Alliance

Bayview Professional Centre
10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
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