More Milkweeds for Monarchs in Mississippi

I just read the MS Native Plant Society’s recent newsletter and it focused mainly on milkweeds and the need for better roadside management for our native flowering plants. If you are a plant lover and not a member yet, check them out (it’s only $10 to become a member, $125 to become a life-time member).  They are a great group of folks!

The MS Native Plant Society is teaming up with others in the US to save the dwindling numbers of monarch butterfly species. About this time of year, migrating butterflies head north from Central America through the Southeast of the US or the coastal California area. The main food source for these monarchs are milkweeds and their nectar.

migration monarch

Monarch migration pattern from MonarchWatch.org

Where do we find milkweeds in Mississippi? We find them in pastures, open fields, and…most commonly…along roadsides. I’ve always been crushed to see milkweed stands plowed down by mowers before they produce nectar that the monarchs need for their intense journey north into Canada. I’ve talked about this with naturalist friends who feel the same way.

It seems that we are not alone. A PhD student from UM, Audrey Harrison, has formed a group called the “Mississippi Roadside Vegetation Action Group” which is interfacing with Transportation Commissioners in various areas of the state to change the way they manage the roadsides. The group consists of professors from our major universities, NGOs, federal agencies, concerned citizens, and students.

They are working on strategic ways to mow the roadsides that would be in sync with monarch butterfly migration and their nectar needs from the milkweeds. They are also working on using mowing instead of spraying.

To join the group, email Audrey Harrison at audreybharrison@gmail.com. You can also call your local Transportation Commissioner to suggest better management of the roadsides for the benefit of our flowering native plants:

Northern MS – Mike Tagert – 662-680-3323
Central MS – Dick Hall – 601-359-7035
Southern MS – Tom King – 601-583-0859

The MS Native Plant Society also has a new handout with 10 common MS milkweeds that would be best to plant in your garden for monarchs (and other pollinators). This includes:

Asclepias longifolia – Longleaf milkweed
A. tuberosa – Butterfly weed or Pleurisy root
A. perennis – Aquatic milkweed
A. variegata – Redring milkweed
A. obovata – Pineland milkweed
A. viridis – Green antelopehorn
A. lanceolata – Fewflower milkweed
A. humistrata – Pinewoods milkweed
A. hirtella – Tall green milkweed
A. verticillata – Whirled milkweed

The MS Native Plants Society has one annual meeting in the Spring and a couple of native plant sales throughout the year. Contact the education chair, Heather Sullivan at Heather.Sullivan@mmns.state.ms.us to find a source for milkweeds in your area.

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