Monarchs and Milkweed

Hi all! Some of you may have seen recent stories about the plight of monarch butterflies and the need to provide them with milkweed plants native to particular areas. For instance, Shawn Hall’s piece in The Lens that came out on Friday:

http://thelensnola.org/2016/01/22/oops-effort-to-save-monarch-butterflies-hastens-their-possible-extinction/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=JUST+PUBLISHED+OPINION+Oops+Effort+to+save+monarch+butterflies+hastens+their+possible+extinction&utm_content=JUST+PUBLISHED+OPINION+Oops+Effort+to+save+monarch+butterflies+hastens+their+possible+extinction+CID_ceb1d9dcf3e69435f975d882ad851a83&utm_source=Email+Campaign&utm_term=Read+the+whole+column

Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, as explained in this brochure from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/SE-Monarch-milkweed-butterfly-host-plant-brochure-final-2012.pdf

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin lists 20 types of milkweed native to Louisiana (you’ll need to search for Asclepias in the Native Plant Database and then narrow your search results to Louisiana in the side bar):

http://www.wildflower.org/

GROWING NATIVE MILKWEED FROM SEED

I’ve heard that native milkweed can be tricky to grow in the home garden.  And there are some specific instructions for growing them from seed:

http://texasbutterflyranch.com/2013/03/13/how-to-get-texas-native-milkweed-seeds-to-germinate/

If you want to try seeds, I would check out Native American Seeds in Texas. Their “Sustain the Migration” kit contains seeds for six kinds of milkweed native to Texas. Four of these are native to Louisiana and are sold as separate packets. The packets are small, 10 seeds for $3:

Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)

http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=3101

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=3139

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=3184

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=3182

Alternatively, Brad Grimm (a private individual with an interest in monarch butterflies) sells larger seed packets (150 seeds for $6) of two Louisiana milkweeds (Asclepias tuberosa (“Butterfly Weed”) and Asclepius incarnata (“Swamp Milkweed”):

http://www.growmilkweedplants.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Another page on his site lists other species of milkweed native to Louisiana. Click on the name to get more information, including suggested avenues for purchasing seeds.

http://www.growmilkweedplants.com/louisiana-native-milkweed.html

Please note: I have not purchased seeds from either Native American Seeds or Brad Grimm, so I cannot vouch for their reliability.

HOW TO FIND MILKWEED PLANTS

Keep in mind that different milkweeds have different sun, soil, and moisture requirements.  In addition, make sure you look for the Latin names when buying plants, because common names can refer to more than one plant.

Almost Eden, a mail order nursery in Merryville, LA has a lot of good growing information and photos.  Even if you don’t buy plants from them, this information will help you look for the plants you want locally. (Mail order plants generally come in small containers and are more expensive than those found locally. Currently, they do not have milkweed in stock, but I imagine this will change as we get more into spring.  While I have not bought milkweed from them, I have bought other plants that have come in good shape, and they respond quickly to email inquiries. )

http://almostedenplants.com/shopping/shopdisplayproducts.asp?Search=Yes&sppp=24&page=1&Keyword=native%20milkweed&category=ALL&highprice=&lowprice=&allwords=native%20milkweed&exact=&atleast=&without=&cprice=&searchfields=

I’ve been looking for native milkweed plants locally since last fall:

Jim Mizell (http://www.mizellfarms.com), the man who sells plants at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market has some on the North Shore, but generally doesn’t sell them because they are harder to grow than the non-native tropical Asclepias curassavica and because people haven’t been asking for them. If you ask for native milkweed, he may be able to start bringing some.

Jefferson Feed on Jefferson Highway had some white milkweed labeled as swamp milkweed last fall. It may have actually been aquatic milkweed, A. perennis; it didn’t look like A. incarnata.

I also checked Perino’s, Chavret’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s, the Pelican Greenhouse in City Park (http://neworleanscitypark.com/events/pelican-greenhouse-plant-sales), and Parkway Partners (http://parkwaypartnersnola.org/index.php/programs/2nd-saturday/), but didn’t see native Asclepias. All were selling the tropical version, Asclepias curassavica. Maybe as word gets out and demand increases, some of these places will start selling native milkweed.

In the meantime, I will be experimenting with growing native milkweed this spring. Feel free to check back with me to see how it’s going. If I find any other sources, I’ll let you know.

Wishing all the best to you and the butterflies!

Monica

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