NATUREWATCH | Attracting monarch butterflies to a garden


Monarchs and milkweed

Peggy Farabaugh in Vernon, Vt., writes:

I was just reading [last week's Naturewatch] column about the monarchs. In case any of your readers are interested in planting milkweed, I have local common milkweed seeds that I harvested last fall in Vernon, Vt. I mail them out, free, to anyone in the area who's willing to plant them.

I'm also growing 1,000 seedlings, which people can pick up free in late May to early June.

I write a blog about monarchs and am working with a guy in Mexico who's restoring their winter habitat. Thanks for keeping them in the news.

A: Thank you Peggy, and yes, I am sure some of our readers will avail themselves of your offer to provide free seeds. I think that as important as the free seeds and seedlings are, so is your blog: I hope our readers will pay it a visit.

Anyone interested in free common milkweed seeds or the seedlings (while they last) may email:

Attracting monarchs

While on the subject of monarch butterflies, here are suggestions to attract these once so very common and colorful butterflies.

If we have any this coming summer, let's hope they find milkweed plants so necessary for breeding. While other native plants are a perfect addition to any butterfly garden, for the monarch, the most import is milkweed, milkweed, milkweed, both the plant itself and its flowers. Other native species that offer food in the form of nectar for adults, include bee balm, Joe-Pye weed, tall coneflower, and asters, especially the New England aster, a late blossoming species. Many cultivated garden flowers also provide food for adult butterflies.

As suggested by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), butterflies in general (including monarch butterflies) can benefit from:

• Plant type and color is important — Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.

• Plant good nectar sources in the sun — Your key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Butterfly adults generally feed only in the sun. If sun is limited in your landscape, try adding butterfly nectar sources to the vegetable garden.

• Plant for continuous bloom — Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span. Try to plant so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins.

For additional suggestions visit the NWF butterfly pages:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is another good site for information. Go to

I was also going to suggest Project Native, a native plant nursery, and wildlife sanctuary, but unfortunately they have ceased operations at their farm in Housatonic, Mass. I am told that Helia Land Design will take over the native plant nursery there.

To Project Native's loyal and competent staff, good luck in your future endeavors.


In explaining some of the reasons for the decline of the monarch in last week's column, we read, "We blame the depredation of the butterfly's wintering grounds in Mexico on pesticides." It should have read, We blame the depredation of the butterfly's wintering grounds in Mexico, and pesticides for their disappearance. And, of course, there are other reasons, as well.

Finally, an extensive monarch website you may want to visit, that also includes a link for children is

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions