The migrating monarch butterfly populations are at an all-time low, according to a recent newsletter from Park Seed, but you can help by planting butterfly-friendly plants in your gardens.
Among the reasons suspected for the decline are deforestation and climate change, among other things, but a lack in wild butterfly weed (also known as milkweed or Asclepias) is also to blame. Wild Asclepias were once found among corn and soy crops, but herbicides used on the crops will kill the butterfly weed. Monarchs need Asclepias to survive, and are also pollinators of many vegetables, so the long-range lack of monarchs and damage to crops has yet to be seen.
Monarchs lay their eggs in butterfly weed plants, and the resulting caterpillars will only eat butterfly weed; from here, they will also transform into butterflies. They will return to these plants just two weeks into their adult lives to lay their eggs. This cycle will repeat for three generations, and the fourth generation, born in the fall, will migrate.
Traditional butterfly weed is an easy perennial to grow, with orange flower clusters and a vanilla scent; it is hardy in Zones 3 to 9. Newer varieties are available in other colors.
Here are a few other butterfly-friendly plants you can try in your gardens:
· Sweet alyssum
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