Monarchs and Milkweed

Monarch butterfly populations have been dwindling across the Americas. Here's what the Land Trust is doing to bring them back to Central Oregon.

The beautful monarch butterfly.
The beautful monarch butterfly.

You may have fond childhood memories of chasing butterflies in your yard or in the woods. If you grew up east of the Rockies, that butterfly was probably a monarch, one of the most common and most recognizable species in the Americas. So common in fact that maybe they didn’t really seem that special.

Fast-forward to the present and monarchs are facing a different reality.  Whether you live east or west of the Rockies, monarch populations have dropped primarily due to habitat loss. So there was a lot of excitement when Stewardship Director Amanda Egertson spotted a monarch at the Whychus Canyon Preserve last year. Amanda’s sighting is the only monarch sighting we know about at any of the Land Trust Preserves!

Monarchs rely exclusively on milkweeds to lay their eggs and as a food source for their caterpillars. Dwindling milkweed populations across the country have reduced the number of monarch butterflies we see today. With the next phase of the restoration of Whychus Creek set to begin in July, we are keeping monarchs in mind.

Showy milkweed. Photo: Mary Ann Newcomer.
Showy milkweed. Photo: Mary Ann Newcomer.
More than 80,000 plants
will be planted in the meadows along the creek at Whychus Canyon Preserve, including milkweed. Two species of milkweed that will be planted at the Preserve include Narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) and Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). Planting milkweed along Whychus Creek is one way to create a monarch “waystation,” or habitat suitable for monarchs to use during their extensive migration. It is just one more way the Land Trust is working to protect wildlife and its habitat in Central Oregon.

You too, can help monarch populations in your own backyard! Backyard pollinator gardens contain a variety of native plants that monarchs can use for nectar, and if you include the two native milkweed species mentioned above, you will provide the host plants monarchs require to lay their eggs. Make sure if you are purchasing milkweed from a nursery, you are getting the native species as some nurseries will sell species that will not improve monarch habitat. Including plants that will provide food for the butterfly will also be important. Many resources are available, including information from Monarch Advocates of Central Oregon (MACO). See a few more helpful links below.

Interested in learning more about the restoration along Whychus Creek or supporting our efforts to protect and improve habitat? Read more about the Campaign for Whychus Creek, or make a donation now to help continue the effort!

Resources
Monarch Joint Venture: Gardening for Monarchs

Xerces Socitey: Milkweed Seed Finder (search by state and species desired)

Natural Resource Conservation Service: Great Basin Pollinator Plants