Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Save a Species with a Simple Seed

From the bean of Green Bean.


By now, you have probably heard of the dramatic decline in Monarch butterflies.  For millennia, Monarchs have made a yearly trek from Canada to Mexico and along the California coast.  Over the past decade, the number of butterflies migrating has plummeted.  This past winter reached an all time low of an estimated "33 million monarchs compared to the peak of 1 billion in 1996."

The main reason we are waving good-bye to the butterfly migration is habitat loss - or, more specifically, loss of milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs lay eggs and which Monarch caterpillars eat. East of the Rocky Mountains, herbicide-resistant crops are largely to blame.  West of the Rocky Mountains (a mostly separate migration), urban sprawl has chewed up the milkweed.

This is an issue which needs to be addressed nationally, state-wide, on county and city levels.  There are petitions to be signed (please DO sign!) and highway departments to be lobbied (please get involved!).  But there is more you can do …

You can help save the Monarch butterfly just by growing milkweed.  In your home garden, community garden plot or church courtyard.  In your school garden or on a 4H farm.  Let's save our Monarch butterflies and, while we are at it, our other native butterflies and pollinators.  They are all in trouble due to habitat loss.

My greenhouse is currently home to over 100 milkweed starts. I have two more packets of seeds on the kitchen counter.  But my garden is only so big.

Some of the milkweed starts in my greenhouse
That is why a friend started a project called Milkweed for Monarchs.  She has distributed milkweed seeds to several local youth organizations.  Two weeks ago, she and I visited a local 4H farm to talk about the Monarch butterfly decline. Then, we rolled up our sleeves and planted 60 milkweed seeds with some pretty darn skilled young gardeners. In early April, I will make a similar presentation to a local girl scout troop - only I am giving them starts (instead of seeds) which they will plant milkweed in their home gardens.

The basket of goodies I took to the 4H meeting; egg carton used for starting seeds
But we need your help.  Are you interested in planting Milkweed for Monarchs?  Do you know of a group or organization that would like to join this effort to save an iconic migration?  Please check out my friend's website.  For each person or group planting milkweed, she will add a butterfly.  Let's cover that map (and re-cover our continent) in brilliant black and orange.

Milkweed for Monarchs Project
Let's get together and save a species with a simple milkweed seed.

5 comments:

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Such a great project! Just shared this with my mom email list, which includes some 4Hers, cub/ boy/ girl scout leaders/ parents. I hope some will join in. Fingers crossed that I can get some planted myself in my yard!

Heather said...

I am completely new to the idea of growing milkweed for butterflies, but I love it! One question: is it invasive?

Green Bean said...

@Betsy - Thank you for sharing with your mom list! I feel like the monarch butterfly migration is such a great opportunity for kids to get involved and make a difference.

@Heather - It does spread. My experience is that it has not been aggressive at all about spreading. For me, I just like how it fills up my flower beds.

Christy said...

I love this, especially how you will be planting the starts with children. The best way to make change is to get the next generation involved!

Green Bean said...

@Christy: Thanks! I totally agree that change happens from the youngest up. Let's get our kids hands dirty. :)

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