A glimmer of hope for monarchs?

The New York Times reported last week that monarch populations in Mexico increased this year over last (which had the lowest count on record). In several previous posts I’ve described the monarch’s complicated life cycle and intricate relationship with milkweed. The Times article succinctly states the several causes of the species’s recent and precipitous population decline:

The orange-and-black butterflies are suffering from loss of milkweed habitat in the United States, illegal logging in Mexico and climate change.

So maybe there’s some hope. If you would like to help by planting milkweed this year, you might want to start with plants, not seeds, because milkweeds take three years to bloom from seed. And do not plant tropical (annual) milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, which is not native to this region and screws up the butterflies’ life cycle by blooming at the wrong time. Instead, buy plants of one or more of these easy-to-grow and very beautiful native species:

Red or swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata): 3-5′ tall, pink flowers June-august, full sun, not fussy about soil

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

The rosy-pink flowers of red or swamp milkweed, the tallest of the natives.

Common milkweed (A. syriaca): up to 4′ tall, lavender flowers June-August, full sun, not fussy about soil

Common milkweed. Image copyright UMass Extension.

Orange butterflyweed (A. tuberosa): 2-3′ tall, orange flowers June-August, full sun, prefers dry soil


Orange butterflyweed, the lowest growing of our native milkweeds, prefers a dry, sunny site.


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