Milkweed for monarchs

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Driftless Area Wetlands Centre Director Katrina Moyna shares information about the milkweed plant, which is an important habitat and food source for the monarch butterflies. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette gave away milkweed and purple coneflowers, courtesy of Clayton County Conservation, Friday evening, in an effort to increase local habitat and food sources for the monarch butterfly. 

A presentation was also given about the monarch, which has recently been considered for the endangered species list.

“They’ve had a 90 percent population decrease since 1995,” noted Wetlands Centre Director Katrina Moyna. If the U.S. population declined at such a rate, she said, the remaining group would consist of the same number of people currently living in Florida. 

The monarch’s decline is largely attributable to habitat destruction, both in Mexican forests, where monarchs winter, and in the U.S., where pesticides and mowing ravage the milkweed plant, on which monarchs feed and lay their eggs.

“Monarchs are fragile, and they’re very specific,” Moyna said, citing their need for milkweed. “It’s the only thing they can lay their eggs on.”

Through the plant giveaway, Moyna encouraged people to create their own butterfly gardens. Other than milkweed and coneflowers, other suggested plants include goldenrod, cosmos, joe pye weed, thistle, gayfeather, lilac, lantana, mountain mint, liatris, boneset, aster, sunflower, baptisia, prairie clover and wild senna. Gardens can be planted in all shapes and sizes, from larger gardens in the yard to set-ups in containers or window boxes.

“You don’t have to have a big lawn,” Moyna said. “It’s a fun project to do with the family.”

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