When I was a kid we used to see hundreds of milkweed plants on the roadside. We’d see the fuzzy little seed “parachutes” floating all around the neighborhood, going from yard to yard. Because they were so white and fluffy, we would call them “Santa Clauses” or “Wishies”. The trick was to catch a floating seed, make a wish on it and let it go.
I don’t see very many milkweed plants alongside the roadside anymore. Massive herbicide by road crews and municipalities has decimated almost all these patches.
See the patch of weeds in the picture above? That is the only weed growth in an entire field. Now I will show you a picture of the few milkweeds in the back of this patch.
That’s it. That’s the sum total of milkweeds in that field and in the other fields in the vicinity. Normally I wouldn’t get worked up over a particular weed species, but this weed is something special. Milkweeds are vital for the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarchs are in trouble. Climate change has been harmful to them, and land development has annihilated their habitat. This past year marked the lowest number of over-wintering Monarchs in the Mexican mountains in 20 years. Their numbers are down by 50%. They need your help.
What can you do? For one thing eliminate the use of herbicides and insecticides. By doing so you will do yourself and the environment a favor. These chemical concoctions are unhealthy for us and they will kill the butterfly and the milkweed plant. Secondly, try to learn as much as you can about the Monarchs, their life cycle and their needs. There are several sites you can visit. One is Monarch Watch (monarchwatch.org). Another is Monarch Butterfly Garden (https://monarchbutterflygarden.net). There are also some great sites devoted to growing milkweed for the butterflies: https://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm, www.livemonarch.com/growinginstructions.htm. You can plant milkweeds in the Spring or Fall, and if you would like to plant them now check out: https://monarchbutterflygarden.net.fall-planting-milkweed-10-steps/. You will get a double bonus, the lovely flowers from the milkweed plant, and the beautiful winged visitors it will encourage.
I hope you will consider helping these beautiful, gentle creatures, the king of the butterflies.
I wish you abiding peace.
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.