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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - February 07, 2014

From: Milwaukee, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pollinators, Butterfly Gardens, Seeds and Seeding, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Getting milkweed seeds into seed mixes from Milwaukee WI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My husband and I are concerned about the Monarch butterfly migration and have started an effort to get milkweed planted along some bike trails here in Wisconsin. This made me think of Ladybird Johnsons efforts to plant wildflowers along highways. I'm wondering if this effort continues and if milkweed is or could be incorporated into the mix. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your help.

ANSWER:

You and your husband are not alone in your concern. When we searched our nearly 9000 previously answered questions, we found 67 on Monarch butterflies. You might want to read a few of those that we chose as being relevant:

Milkweed growers using toxic spray on milkweed

Seeding milkweed

Milkweed endangered?

All of these answers have other links in them, which you might enjoy reading.

Even the New York Times has chimed in on this, with an article on January 29, 2014 Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions.

We appreciate your confidence that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants can alleviate this problem. In one way, we feel that we do - many people are known to simply read through our answers, as we have numbers showing that several million people visit our website a year, so hopefully your concern will spread to others through us. However, we have no control over the seeds that seed companies put in their wildflowers mixes, nor do we have the clout to remove from production the chemicals that are a big part of the problem. A paragraph from that article in the Times that we paticularly want to highlight:

"By some estimates, a billion or more monarchs once made the 2,500-mile-plus trip, breeding and dying along the route north so that their descendants were actually the ones that completed the migration."

When you realize that the butterflies that return to Mexico ever year are several generations down from the ones that left Mexico the previous Spring, you realize that this is a problem throughout Middle America. Individuals can try to have food waystations on the Monarch route and encourage others to do so.

Milkweeds are members of the species Asclepias. Anyone wishing to search on species of that genus native to their area of the country can go to our Native Plant Database, search on Asclepias and then narrow it down using the search bar on the right side of that page to find their state, and search for milkweeds native to their area. For instance, here are the milkweeds native to Wisconsin. You can follow each link to our webpage on that plant to find out the growing conditions, bloom times and soils required.

Asclepias amplexicaulis (Clasping milkweed)

Asclepias exaltata (Poke milkweed)

Asclepias hirtella (Green milkweed)

Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)

Asclepias ovalifolia (Oval-leaf milkweed)

Asclepias purpurascens (Purple milkweed)

Asclepias speciosa (Showy milkweed)

Asclepias sullivantii (Prairie milkweed)

Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Asclepias verticillata (Whorled milkweed)

Asclepias viridiflora (Green milkweed)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Clasping milkweed
Asclepias amplexicaulis

Poke milkweed
Asclepias exaltata

Swamp milkweed
Asclepias incarnata

Oval-leaf milkweed
Asclepias ovalifolia

Purple milkweed
Asclepias purpurascens

Showy milkweed
Asclepias speciosa

Prairie milkweed
Asclepias sullivantii

Common milkweed
Asclepias syriaca

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Longleaf milkweed
Asclepias longifolia

Green milkweed
Asclepias viridiflora

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