Got Milkweed?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Munch, munch.

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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.

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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.

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One tiny spark that can ignite a sky full of butterflies. Do we want to passively accept another loss of something fleeting and lovely?

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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).

6 responses to “Got Milkweed?

  1. Paulette Hagen

    How do you get seeds or a seedling? Butterfly weed would look great in our garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Try The Growing Place in Naperville, IL, Paulette — they are close to you and have a solid native plant selection, including butterfly weed. Call to be sure they haven’t run out! Prairie Moon online has seeds for next season you can order, or ask your local plant provider. Be sure and specify “native” milkweed, not tropical. Good luck!

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  3. That you not only for the lovely blog post but the help above! i’ve tried two years in row to grow it with no success. gonna check out the growing place!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. beautiful, Cindy – I love the quote from Mother Teresa…we can all strive to do this!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Is it too late to plant milkweed now????? I used to collect my butterfly worms on milkweed out on the side of country roads, but they have pretty much been cleaned out now by road crews spraying “weeds”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Isn’t it funny, Micki, how the Illinois tollway is planting milkweed and other road crews are spraying it? I hope more counties and states will realize how simple it is to leave the milkweed and increase the monarchs. I’d give milkweed plants a try right now — maybe wait to plant seeds until early September. Check out this link for some good, basic fall planting information: https://monarchbutterflygarden.net/fall-planting-milkweed-monarch-butterflies/ Good luck!

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