When you were a kid did you run through your yard trying to catch butterflies? It was such a joy to have a big, beautiful monarch perch on my hand, even if it was just for a second.
My kids don’t chase monarch butterflies in the yard because there are not that many around. Monarch numbers are falling because the plant on which monarchs lay their eggs and the caterpillars eat – milkweed – is being eradicated from ditches and prairies and ag land because of pesticides and land development.
River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic is partnering with the Monarch Joint Venture, a group from the University of Minnesota, to create monarch habitats on the hospital campus and to encourage others in St. Peter to do the same. The project is called Mission Monarch.
At River’s Edge we value care, collaboration, stewardship and integrity when it comes to the health and well-being of the people we care for. Those values extend out to the community and that is one of the reasons why we are taking the steps to become good stewards in the conservation and restoration of the monarch population.
All of this starts with planting a few seeds.
A good monarch habitat should have milkweed plants along with other nectar plants that bloom from late spring in to fall. Milkweed has gotten a bad rap the last few years because if it is not properly managed, it can be invasive. Wendy Caldwell from the Monarch Joint Venture recommends 4-5 milkweed plants in the habitat area.
There are many varieties of milkweed but these are some of the best ones to plant in our area:
Whorled milkweed – white to greenish flowers; plant in sandy, clayey or rocky soil.
Swamp milkweed – bright pink flowers; river banks, flood plains of lakes, streams, ponds, marshes and other wetland prairie areas.
Butterfly milkweed – bright orange flowers; best in pastures, prairies, roadsides, waste grounds.
Sullivans or prairie milkweed – pinkish to purple flowers; ideal for Minnesota, plant on prairies.
Poke milkweed – white flowers with lavender weep down; best along woodland edges and woodlands.
Add some nectar plants like blazing star (Liatris), coneflower or zinnias to the garden and you will see butterflies filling up for their migration back to Mexico.
So, where do you get milkweed? Luckily Traverse Des Sioux Garden Center in St. Peter will have milkweed plants available in their store by May 1. The plants will be growing in one gallon pots.
In the fall you can harvest the milkweed seeds to plant yourself or give to a friend. Here’s how to harvest your own seeds:
- Harvest in early fall
- Get permission from landowner if harvesting pods from private land
- Wear gloves! Milkweed sap can be harmful to your eyes
- Seeds should be brown
- To separate the seeds from the silks place in a clear container with a couple of coins. Cover then shake until the seeds are at the bottom and a fluff ball is on top.
- Sow the seeds on bare soil before the first snowfall or place in a labeled container with air holes in a cool dry place.If you would like to participate in Mission Monarch contact Stephanie Hill, Director of Marketing at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic at 934-7645 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Email photos of your butterfly gardens and butterflies and we will post them on the Mission Monarch Facebook page – www.facebook.com/missionmonarch.com
For more information on monarch conservation efforts visit www.monarchjointventure.org or www.monarchwatch.org.
Stephanie Hill is the Director of Marketing at River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic. The information and suggestions contained in this blog are not intended to replace advice, diagnosis or treatment of qualified medical professionals. Consult with your primary care provider before starting a new diet or fitness program.
River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic provides quality health services that value all dimensions of health including mind, body and spirit. Our goal is to improve the health of all individuals we serve through continuous, measurable improvement in patient satisfaction, clinical quality, patient safety and operational effectiveness.