Plant Texan milkweed. Save a butterfly.
It may seem too simple to be true, but state agencies are encouraging the practice in hopes of saving Monarchs.
This fall, Monarchs are embarking on a journey south, during which they’ll seek food to sustain them in their travels.
Planting native milkweed will ensure future trips for these lovely creatures will be rich in food opportunities. Plus, the two main types of milkweed encouraged for planting in the Lone Star State thrive in little water and full sun. So while you’re reevaluating your landscape this fall, take the opportunity to consider planting Antelope Horns and Green Milkweed.
A first wave of Danaus plexippus will pass through Texas into Mexico by the third week of September. Meanwhile, the second wave is situated along the Texas coast and lasts roughly from the third week of October to the middle of November, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Millions of these fragile creatures will stop to drink nectar along their migration pathways, fueling their tiny bodies for the hard journey. Native milkweed can help.
The monarch population has declined by 90 percent since the 1990s, making it more important than ever to help where possible, according to a recent Texas Observer article.
The monarch is dependent on milkweed for laying eggs and for caterpillar food. But, it’s important to note that it must be the native Texas form of milkweed.
Most big box nurseries in Texas sell tropical milkweed - Asclepias curassavica - which is native to Mexico, according to an Austin American Statesman article. That particular type of milkweed blooms later in the fall, tricking the butterflies heading south to staying here longer, according to the article. Instead, plant native Texas milkweed, like antelope horns milkweed or green milkweed.
The right type
As development continues across the country, more and more milkweed vegetation is removed from its habitat, reducing the much-needed substances for the orange-and-black butterfly.
Known for their annual, multi-generational migration, the insects travel from Mexico to as far north as Canada and back. While large organizations and national agencies are working toward solutions, the small impact of planting native milkweed is huge.
Even if someone doesn’t reside in the general migration path in the Brazos River basin, a monarch butterfly could be flown off course by the wind and in need of food before it rejoins the migration.
With more than 100 species of milkweeds in the Americans, and more than 30 of them native to Texas, there are two types to keep in mind.
Two of the most important types of milkweed for monarch butterflies are Antelope Horns and Green Milkweed, also known as Green Antelophorn, according to the Native Plant Society of Texas.
Bonus, antelope horns and the Green Milkweeds are not finicky about water, according to the society. Both prefer well-drained soil and seeds can be planted September through November.
“This gives the seeds the exposure to the moisture and cold temperatures that it prefers, and once the temperature is warm enough in the spring, the seeds will germinate,” according to the society.
Xeriscaping is a growing trend in Texas as people aim for drought-tolerant landscaping. Less watering equals lower water bills and improved water conservation efforts. And Fall is the perfect time to begin planning and preparing a xeriscaped garden.
Other ways to help
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, among other agencies, are working on habitat restoration, milkweed and native flower seed production, outreach and education, and research and
monitoring to help prevent the loss of the monarch. Many of the projects focus on the Interstate 35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, according to the organization.
You can help in those efforts.
Several sites exist to help track and monitor the monarch butterfly populations as they travel. Monarch Watch brings together volunteers to help report sightings, among other efforts. And Journey North provides ways to report sightings of both spring- and fall-migrating monarchs.
Together we can make a difference.