I can’t fix the economy. I can’t create more jobs. If I had to vote tomorrow, I’d never untangle the prolific muddle that is the current slate of presidential candidates.
World hunger? Seems overwhelming. Climate change? Ditto.
But there is one small thing I can do to make a difference this summer: Plant milkweed.
If you missed the news, monarch butterflies are losing numbers. Big numbers. Agricultural land use, pesticides, and loss of habitat have decimated their populations. Monarchs are tattered. Fragile. Barely holding on.
What can we do?
Plant flowers. Milkweed, to be specific. Here in Illinois, we have more than a dozen native milkweeds. Some are the familiar common pink, sweetly-scented globe-shaped blooms. Others are quite different, such as this whorled milkweed.
I love the bright orange butterfly weed, also in the milkweed family. Think how pretty it would look in the garden! With a little purple prairie clover.
All these milkweeds have one thing in common: They are the host plants for monarch butterfly eggs. Once the caterpillars hatch, milkweed plants provide them with life-giving nourishment.
The math is simple.
No milkweed = No monarchs.
Don’t have a backyard, you say? Help restore a prairie or plant a butterfly garden with milkweed in a city park, and you’re helping the monarch butterflies.
I know, I know. Restoring a prairie or planting milkweed in our backyards and neighborhoods is not going to solve some of the big problems that our world faces. But each milkweed plant is one small step toward hope. One way to make a tangible difference where we live.
One tiny spark that can ignite a sky full of butterflies. Do we want to passively accept another loss of something fleeting and lovely?
Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love. The small changes we can make give us hope for greater changes we can’t make alone.
If only all the solutions to our problems began with planting more flowers.
What a beautiful world it would be.
All photos by Cindy Crosby: (top to bottom): bee on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; monarch butterfly on rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) , SP; butterfly weed, SP; monarch butterfly caterpillar on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) , SP; volunteer restoring tallgrass prairie, SP; monarch butterfly on bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), NG; monarch butterfly on rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), SP.
“Do small things with great love” quote is adapted from Mother Teresa (1910-1997).