Have you considered planting native plants in your garden this year? Native plants thrive naturally in a habitat or region and attract local birds, bees, and other pollinators, contributing to a healthy ecosystem. They often need less attention than their non-native counterparts, too, as they are adapted to the soil and weather of our region.
Native plants often play a key role in the life cycle of other creatures, such as the food and habitat that milkweed, pictured above, offers for the beautiful monarch butterfly. Monarchs depend on native milkweed plants for survival--and the loss of milkweed plants over the past years has gravely affected the monarch population. When monarchs migrate from Mexico to North America each spring, they lay their eggs on the milkweed plant, and monarch caterpillars solely feed on milkweed. They are actually able to ingest the toxic properties in the milkweed and use it to their advantage; they become toxic to predators! Monarchs, in turn, are one of the main pollinators of milkweed, helping this plant to thrive. Without milkweed, monarchs are not able to complete their life cycle, and we see the decline of this beautiful species.
You can assist this lovely relationship by planting native Pennsylvanian milkweeds in your yard! Here's a list of natives from Monarch Joint Venture:
Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa
Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata
- Poke Milkweed, Asclepias exaltata
Many local nurseries and gardens sell milkweed, including Garden Dreams and Sylvania Natives, and many more. And, check out Penn State Extension's wonderful resource on the who, what, where, and when of planting native plants! So, get busy planting gorgeous natives and help keep our population of pollinators happy and healthy!
Sources and More info:
- Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: http://xerces.org/milkweed-seed-finder/
- Grow Milkweed Plants: http://www.growmilkweedplants.com/pennsylvania-native-milkweed.html
- Audubon Society of Western PA: http://www.aswp.org/pages/native-plants-center-sales
- PA Native Plant Society: http://www.panativeplantsociety.org/