CLOSE TO THE LAND

living & eating close to the land

Creating Habitat for Monarchs

Have been so busy with my new job that I haven’t taken time to blog lately. Though I haven’t posted in a while, my commitment to living close to the land continues to be a personal focus. With this being the case, I am feeling a deep desire to share a bit about the local/national movement to create a more inviting habitat for migrating as well as native wildlife — in particular, the beautiful Monarch butterfly.

A beautiful Monarch

A beautiful Monarch

You may already be familiar with media coverage and information about how the Monarch is loosing critical habitat due to deforestation as well as other factors. Just in case you’re not, I will briefly address this by saying that each spring (around late April), these beautiful butterflies (who winter over in Mexico) pass through our area as they make their way back to Canada. (It is interesting to note that it takes four generations of butterflies to make their trek from Mexico to Canada.) These colorful orange and black butterflies drink nectar from a large variety of plants, however, the Monarch caterpillars from which the butterflies emerge only eat milkweed.  There are a number of varieties of milkweed and it is this specific group of plants that are critical to the life cycle and survivability of the Monarch.

As luck would have it, the landscaper that I have worked with over the past year was the first Monarch Butterfly habitat enthusiast that I encountered.  She encouraged me to build in some plants that would both attract and help sustain Monarchs into my landscaping plan and she continues to send me info about how important creating and supporting such habitats is to this threatened species.  I now have a beautiful plan in hand which includes plantings that will draw butterflies to our yard and I am looking forward to implementing our plan over the coming months.

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Dedicated community volunteers planting milkweed along a ridge on the Canal Trail

While I have been dreaming and scheming about the Monarch friendly landscape that we would create, it seems that there were many other kindred spirits working toward the same end at the other end of our county.  At a recent Master Gardeners meeting, one of my fellow master gardeners shared about a local project through which community volunteers were diligently planting milkweed along our local Canal Trail (and beyond) as Monarch habitat.  This information paved the way for me to connect to this enthusiastic group in order to learn more about Monarch butterflies, varieties of milkweed, and local efforts to create habitat and be recognized as an official Monarch Waystation.

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Tray of milkweed seedlings that were sprouted with support from our local community college

This past Friday, I drove nearly an hour to meet a group of committed volunteers at 7:15 am.  This was their last day scheduled for planting milkweed along our Canal Trail.  There were three women and a fellow already at work when I arrived. They gave me a brief orientation and I joined in their work.  With five folks, it didn’t take all that long to complete the task of transplanting the trays of seedlings into the ridge that had been prepared for this higher purpose.

There is so much more that I would like to say about these folks who are so passionate about this project, about this gallant community development effort and about how inspired I am as I think about all the Monarchs that will stop in to rest and reproduce in our region over the years to come.  I can just see our recreational areas along the Canal trail and hopefully our entire Roanoke River Region alive with the flutter of these beautiful, colorful creatures. I am happy to have had the chance to contribute in some small way.  I sincerely hope that some of you who read this blog will decide to get involved and will volunteer to plant or maybe even coordinate other efforts to organize plantings further down our river corridor.  There is a role for individuals, businesses and a host of community groups in a project like this one (thanks to all of those in Halifax County who have lead and supported this exciting project)~

A couple of the websites for more information include http://www.monarchwatch.org and http://www.wildcenter.org/tag.  Another great source of basic info can be found at http://monarchjointventure.org/images/uploads/documents/GardeningforMonarchs.pdf.

If you need to know more about how to get started with a similar project or just a small one in your own backyard, in addition to the websites above you can call Tina Gregory at 252-452-1920 or Jean Carter at 252-535-4263. Both of these ladies are very passionate about this project and this work and they would be happy to share their insights and information with you. If you have a sincere interest along these lines, I encourage you to join the movement by acting on it. Every planting will add to the collective habitat and will make our region a “not to miss” stop-over for these beautiful winged creatures!

I think that this “close to the land” project offers so many benefits.  Not just for the Monarch but also for communities who are purposefully developing in ways that will draw visitors to enjoy the natural resources that they offer. Such a project would be a great scout or youth project as well as a great family activity. You may have even more ideas. If you do, I would love to hear about them :)

Hope that after reading this that you will consider taking just one small action that will enhance your local environment as a habitat for Monarchs as well as other wildlife species.  You could also consider adding bluebird boxes, bird feeders and a host of plantings that attract a variety of pollinators. The possibilities are endless!

Here’s to living and eating close to the land and to all the kindred spirits who share this philosophy and work together to make big ideas a reality!

Gratefully, Carol Carolina

 

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