Order Up! Milkweed for Monarchs

Pat Goodfriend, Volunteer & Membership Coordinator
June 15, 2021

Land use on Acorn Hall’s six acres continues to evolve. In the 19th century, gentlemen farmer Augustus Crane planted fruit trees, grew garden vegetables, and even raised poultry and small animals on the grounds of his “country home.” Our property, now within an urban environment and no longer used as a farm, offers new opportunities to encourage native plants and insects.

Milkweed seeds being spread at Acorn Hall. MCHS met MonarchWatch’s guidelines by assuring the milkweed receives adequate sunlight, has proper soil and drainage, and provides shelter.

Following Sandy and the loss of over 200 mature trees, MCHS began a native planting project, which included a meadow that, among other things, was designed to support Eastern Monarch butterflies on their annual migration. In Fall 2019, carefully collected native milkweed seeds were sown into the meadow and, six months later, the new milkweed plants grew, some nearly 3 feet tall.

In addition to being a food source for insects and small animals, the iconic black and orange butterflies are critical pollinators, passing pollen among wildflowers as they feed on nectar. Monarchs lay their eggs on native milkweed plants, which become the sole host for their larva. Larva feed on as many as 20 milkweed leaves a day before forming their chrysalis, under metamorphosis, and become an adult butterfly. Each Monarch life cycle takes 30 days, and four generations are required to keep repopulating the migratory route between Northern Mexico and Canada and back again.

Monarch Waystation sign in Acorn Hall’s wood lot.

Our milkweed patch in the sunny meadow has proven so successful that it’s now an official Monarch Waystation registered with MonarchWatch.org, a Monarch conservation organization. The meadow provides a buffet of native nectar plants such as Beebalm, Joe Pye Weed, and Sweet Goldenrod, which Monarchs can be seen feasting on. Come to the wood lot and see for yourself, or join us for Of Milkweed and Monarchsthis summer. We’re so excited to host these beautiful migrants from their breeding season (April) through their fall migration and would be more than happy to tell you how you can help them too!