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A bright orange monarch flies over colorful, pink showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
(Photo: Xerces Society / Stephanie McKnight)

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.

asclepias tuberosa

In addition to monarchs, native milkweeds support a wide diversity of pollinators, including bumble bees. (Photo: Xerces Society / Sarah Foltz Jordan)

To help offset the loss of monarch breeding habitat, the North American Monarch Conservation Plan (published in 2008 by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation) recommends the planting of regionally appropriate native milkweed species. However, a scarcity of milkweed seed in many regions of the United States has limited opportunities to include the plants in regional restoration efforts.


Milkweed Information and Tools

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