Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide

Plant Ecology, Seed Production Methods, and Habitat Restoration Opportunities
By Brianna Borders and Eric Lee-Mader

Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner's Guide
Monarch butterflies need milkweed. In addition to being the obligate food source for monarch caterpillars, milkweeds also provide abundant nectar for the adult butterflies, as well as bees and other beneficial insects. However, like many other native plant species, milkweeds are disappearing from the landscape in the wake of urban development and agricultural intensification. This Xerces Society guide shows how to bring back our milkweeds and restore habitat for monarch butterflies. Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide is a first-of-its kind manual on large-scale milkweed seed production, nursery propagation, and field restoration of the plants.

The information in Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide is gathered from interviews with native plant nurseries and seed producers, gained firsthand through Project Milkweed, and synthesized from scientific literature. It provides conservation professionals with information about optimizing milkweed seed production methods, offers guidance on incorporating milkweeds into restoration and revegetation efforts, and highlights milkweeds’ unique characteristics and value to wildlife. Native seed producers, restoration practitioners, land managers, monarch conservationists, gardeners, and landowners will all find this guide valuable.

To download a pdf of the report, click here.

Featured topics include:

  • • Milkweeds’ value to monarch butterflies, pollinators, and other beneficial insects;
  • • Pollination ecology;
  • • Tips for collecting foundation germplasm;
  • • Methods for germinating seed and producing transplants;
  • • Detailed guidelines for large-scale milkweed seed production, from field establishment through seed cleaning;
  • • In-depth profiles of milkweed specialist insects;
  • • Guidance on identifying and managing milkweed diseases;
  • • Assessment of milkweed seed availability on a regional basis;
  • • Opportunities to include milkweeds in monarch and pollinator habitat restoration efforts; and
  • • Regional recommendations of priority species for use in restoration.

This guide is the latest publication from our Project Milkweed efforts. To learn more about Project Milkweed, visit


The Xerces Society’s milkweed conservation work is funded by a national USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, The Monarch Joint Venture, The Hind Foundation, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, The William H. and Mattie Wattis Harris Foundation, Turner Foundation Inc., The McCune Charitable Foundation, and Xerces Society members.