Monarch zoo

Monarch on meadow blazing star

We can’t help but modestly gloat a bit right now, as the monarch loop we had written about a few weeks back is starting to pay off. There are now almost 15 monarchs living in the Joppa Avenue Landscape, hanging out mainly on the Liatris ligulistylis / meadow blazing star, but equally enjoying the Verbena bonariensis / Brazilian verbena, and the Eupatorium purpureum / Joe Pye weed. It’s a veritable monarch zoo, and it flittingly rocks the house.

Creating a monarch loop

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), impossibly orange, in a PRAIRIEFORM landscape

Early July signals the blooming of butterfly weed, and, simultaneously, the opportunity to attract monarchs to the landscape. Monarchs lay their eggs on many kinds of milkweed, but we like butterfly milkweed/weed best, as its form is relatively tidy, it requires little to no supplemental water, and the impossible orange of its flowers is almost unreal. In order to attract butterflies to the plant in the first place, they need a source of nectar. Several plants fit the bill for this. Our preferred ones are meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis), Brazilian verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). With these plants in place, and a milkweed too, you have created a sort of monarch loop whereby habitat and food are provided for the monarch during each of the stages of its life. As the recommended plants lean to the tidier side form-wise, this kind of butterfly loop would not be out of place within a more formal front yard landscape. For more photos of butterfly weed in the landscape, check out our Facebook page. While you are at us, “Like” us!

Inviting monarchs to the city

Monarchs flock to the Liatris ligulistylis in the Pine Hill Road landscape

The number of monarchs migrating from Mexico to Canada this past year has increased, after several years of somewhat alarming decline. Theories have abounded as to why their numbers were dwindling – climate change and habitat loss being primary suspects – but the verdict is still out as to why the increase. In any case, we wanted to take the opportunity to give a plug for one of the simplest, sure-fire ways to attract monarchs to your urban or suburban landscape (no matter how big the size), and as a way to improve the likelihood of monarch populations persisting into the future: plant Liatris ligulistylis (aka Meadow Blazing Star). Without fail, the electric-purple flowers of this prairie perennial open up and the monarchs do not skip a beat, and they will visit your landscape every day until all the flowers have faded. The flowers actually emit a pheromone to attract monarchs in particular. Additionally, the form of the plant is cultivated-looking enough that it does not look out of place in a front-yard planting tucked within and between some sturdier shrubs or grasses. In other words, it won’t give your landscape that weedy-hot-mess aesthetic that plagues many a front-yard perennial garden these days. So, go forth and plant your Liatris ligulistylis; it’s one of the easiest, feel-good things you can do this spring to help give the monarch population the boost it needs.

For more on the decline and rise of the North American monarch population, click here.