Milkweed & Monarchs, Notes from the Field

milkweed and monarchs

Over the course of the past two years, TWC neighbor and avid volunteer Sue Reed planted 8 milkweed plants at  our Nyberg Wetland Preserve. Sue chose to plant the beautiful plant with showy flowers to help support monarch butterfly habitat. Well known for their long-distance seasonal migration and winter gatherings in Mexico and California, the monarch butterfly population has declined to dangerously low levels over the course of the last two decades. Some of the butterflies that winter in Southern California return to Oregon to breed. Female monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed because once the caterpillars hatch, they feed exclusively on milkweed. Additionally, the milky substance in the stem and leaves of the plant contain a chemical compound that, when ingested by the caterpillar, acts as a repellent to predators.

Sue’s project required initial clearing of an area to plant the seeds, building cages around the plants to protect them from trampling by humans and wildlife, maintenance of invasive species removal and watering in drier times. Under Sue’s, tender loving care the five plants are thriving.

We can all help monarchs by planting milkweed in our gardens.  Fall is the time to plant your milkweed seeds as they like cool and wet conditions for germination. We have two native milkweed species in the Willamette Valley: showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and narrow leafed milkweed (A. fasciculatus). For more information on milkweed, monarchs and where to buy plants and seeds visit the websites of the Oregon Milkweed Project , Xerces Society and Portland Nursery.

Thank you Sue! Over the coming years, we look forward to watching caterpillars feeding on our Nyberg Preserve milkweeds plants.

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