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Wellesley Family Grows Milkweed for MonarchsWellesley Family Grows Beautiful Milkweed For Monarchs

Beautiful Monarch butterflies that were once regular visitors to our yards are now in a world-wide decline. This is largely due to the wide use of pesticides and herbicides that poison the butterflies and their caterpillars, and to the reduction in milkweed plant numbers. Milkweed is the *only* plant that Monarch caterpillars can eat, so it’s presence is essential. Unfortunately, the clearing of roadside verges and more intensive development has greatly reduced this critical, native plant.

Over the past five years Sustainable Wellesley has provided more than 800 milkweed plants to Wellesley residents so they can encourage Monarch butterflies in their own yards. Many have sent in photos of butterflies and caterpillars in their gardens. 

Now Wellesley resident Jaden Crawford has taken it to the next level!

Jaden wrote to Sustainable Wellesley lately letting us know that he has been germinating, propagating and growing milkweed and has some seeds to share if folks are interested in them.

“They are prolific!,” he said. “Part of the trick to propagating from collected seed is collecting the seed pods once they turn brown and start splitting, but before the seeds go airborne. Remove them from the pods and store in a clean, dry container. Then make sure they spend some time in freezing temps and store them in a cool, dry place,” Jaden wrote.  He continued that, “Even though they are prolific, they are much easier to manage than other prolific plants like goldenrod (which we also grow-carefully) because they don’t have the same type of fast-running roots. So they are quite easy to pull at any stage of growth if they do turn up in beds where they aren’t wanted.”

According to Jaden germination took a long time this year and the germination ratio was about 70%. WIth the thousands of seeds produced per plant this is a lot, but he still aims to beat it next season by letting the seeds freeze a bit – just as they do in nature.

Beginning in late February, he uses a greenhouse (one that he built out of an old deck that he pulled up, glass primarily from the RDF, and a polycarbonate roof) and heat mats on timers when ambient temps are relatively low at night. He also keeps moisture fairly constant until they germinate. For folks without greenhouses, simple cold frames would work just as well.

Jaden is happy to walk others through his process in person. Email info@sustainablewellesley.com to get connected to him. If you want to be a monarch watcher, or learn more about them, reach out to them here.

Next month we will learn more about his family’s food, ornamental, and wildlife gardens.

Phyllis Theermann

Sustainable Wellesley will be selling Asclepias incarnata/ swamp milkweed plants this Saturday at July Jubilation.

By planting milkweed in your yard, you are helping the monarch butterfly population. They need to eat milkweed to survive, plus these beautiful pink plants attract even more beautiful butterflies to your home!

Find us at from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm in front of Bruegger’s Bagels.

Come by and learn about new initiatives that the Natural Resources Commission and Sustainable Wellesley have going on.

Phyllis Theermann

Its will be getting cold out there and a few of you that ordered milkweed have yet to pick it up.

Please reach out to Laurel here at laurellanders2003@yahoo.com and let her know what time this week you will come by to pick them up.

Many thanks from the monarch population!

COPYRIGHT © 2016 By Sustainable Wellesley

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