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Butterfly Visions will Soon Take Flight | Los Angeles Times

April 4, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale.]

A Monarch Butterfly fluttered through the yard a few days ago; our native milkweed plant now has eleven small leaves. Monarch Season will soon be upon us.

That’s not a given, though. Far from it. The number of West Coast wintering Monarchs dropped 97.5% from 1997 to 2019, then dropped another 93.6% in 2020. Only 1,914 Monarchs were present on last year’s Thanksgiving Count, down from 1.2 million in 1997. That’s for the entire West Coast, not just Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times had another full-page article on the Monarchs in their 3 April 2021 Saturday section, again written by Jeanette Marantos, who did a bang-up job on her 27 Feb. article, You can Guide Monarchs Back to their Throne. The new article (linked below), equally as informative and useful, recapitulates some information but most of it is new. A few highlights are below, but I recommend you read — perhaps print out and keep — Marantos’ article.

Monarch Butterflies fans are clamoring for native milkweed.
Here are eight places to buy it
.
Los Angeles Times | Jeanette Marantos | 3 April 2021

  • Native milkweeds — especially narrow-leaf milkweed — are just now emerging from dormancy. You can’t hurry this. It’s a summer bloomer and goes dormant in midwinter. Plants big enough to sell are not available at most nurseries until mid-April.
  • Increased demand this year means the April crop is “reserved out;” it could be May or June before you find any. You may want to make an advance order yourself.
  • Two bills were introduced in Congress in mid-March to help fund monarch habitat restoration and preservation.
  • Pink is Good, Orange is Bad. Native milkweeds have pink, white and cream-colored flowers. Buy those. Tropical milkweed has showier, orange flowers. Don’t buy them.
  • Live on the coast? Don’t plant any milkweed. It’s just too warm year-round by the ocean, and all milkweeds will stay green and not go Winter-dormant. What to do? Plant California native plants that bloom during winter (Nov-Apr). They will provide nectar for the adult butterflies. It’s only the Monarch caterpillars that eat milkweed. What blooms in winter? Ask your favorite purveyor of native California plants.
    Addendum: Alert Reader Judy Villablanca, member of the Malibu Monarch Project and who lives near “the coast” comments that her native Narrow-leaved Milkweed does die back in the winter, and is beginning to re-sprout right now (April 5). So….if you live along the coast and have native milkweed, keep an eye on it. If it doesn’t die back (i.e. lose all its leaves) cut it back, down to the ground. That’s what we did (San Fernando Valley), then thought it was gone forever, but danged if it didn’t start re-sprouting about 2 weeks ago.
    Addendum #2: Judy recommends as blooming food plants California buckwheat, white sage, salvia, California asters. Another great website for plant information is California Native Plant Society’s website (https://calscape.org).
  • Buy Organic only. Pesticide residue on or in the plant will kill your butterflies.
  • Aphids on your milkweed? Ignore them. You may not like their looks, but (growers say) they’re harmless to both milkweed and caterpillars. Native California plant growers should (you might want to ask them) know how to control aphids without pesticides — systemic or otherwise — that make the plant toxic to caterpillars.
  • It’s caterpillar food, not human decoration. Don’t sweat it if the caterpillars and aphids eat all the milkweed leaves right down to the stems. That’s what is supposed to happen.
  • Want additional Information? Contact the Xerces Society They also want photos.

Some Southern California Native Plant Nurseries
  • Artemisia Nursery – 5068 Valley Blvd. in El Sereno. artemisianursery.com
  • California Botanic Garden Grow Native Nursery – 1500 N. College Ave. in Claremont. calbg.org
  • Hahamongna Native Plant Nursery – 4550 Oak Grove Drive in Pasadena. arroyoseco.org/nursery
  • Moosa Creek Nursery – Valley Center, near San Diego; wholesale grower not open to the public but does take special orders online delivered to a partner retailer. moosacreeknursery.com
  • Roger’s Gardens – 2301 San Joaquin Hills Road, Corona del Mar. rogersgardens.com
  • The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Nursery – 1212 Mission Canyon Road in Santa Barbara, sbbg.org
  • Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery – 10459 Tuxford St. in Sun Valley. theodorepayne.org
  • Tree of Life Nursery – 33201 Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano. californianativeplants.com
  • Matilija Nursery – 8225 Waters Road in Moorpark. MatilijaNursery.com

The showy Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) may be killing the adult Monarchs. Most SoCal nurseries have only tropical milkweeds, which bear feathery purplish-green leaves and deep orange flowers.

Tropical Milkweed does not die all the way back during winter in SoCal, as does native milkweed. That permits protozoa parasites (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) to multiply on the plants and continue on the plant through the winter. When the caterpillars hatch, they eat the protozoa along with the leaves. Scientists believe that when a caterpillar eats too many such protozoa, it sickens and weakens the adult monarchs, interfering with their migration patterns, mating success, flight ability and lifespan. Milkweed blooming during winter may also disrupt their migration patterns.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Judy V permalink
    April 5, 2021 2:23 pm

    Another place to find milkweed and other native pollinator plants is the Matilija Nursery. (matilijanursery.com). I also wanted to comment about not planting milkweed if you live on the coast. THis is actually not true. I live in coastal Malibu and have native narrow leaf milkweed which grows naturally on my property,which is now about 6 inches high resprouting. So you are fine to plant milkweed on the coast. It works to plant milkweed and other pollinator plants in pots as well on your balcony. Some easy plants to use: California buckwheat, white sage, salvia, California asters. Another great website for plant information is California Native Plant Society’s website (https://calscape.org). I am part of the Malibu Monarch Project. Enjoy your garden and all the visiting pollinators!

    Like

    • Chukar permalink*
      April 7, 2021 11:57 am

      Judy:
      Thanks for the update & correction. I inserted into the text of the blog the following:
      Addendum: Alert Reader Judy Villablanca, member of the Malibu Monarch Project and who lives near “the coast” comments that her native Narrow-leaved Milkweed does die back in the winter, and is beginning to re-sprout right now (April 5). So….if you live along the coast and have native milkweed, keep an eye on it. If it doesn’t die back (i.e. lose all its leaves) cut it back, down to the ground. That’s what we did (San Fernando Valley), then thought it was gone forever, but danged if it didn’t start re-sprouting about 2 weeks ago.
      Addendum #2: Judy recommends as blooming food plants California buckwheat, white sage, salvia, California asters. Another great website for plant information is California Native Plant Society’s website (https://calscape.org).

      Like

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