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Category: Attracts Butterflies

Saving Monarch Butterflies. Get rid of the Roundup

Monarch butterflies are dependent upon milkweed as their primary food source. As butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has been systematically eradicated from the landscape through the use of Roundup and crops resistant to Roundup, monarch butterfly populations have decreased dramatically.

Reports from the World Wildlife Fund and numerous other research studies indicate that the monarch butterfly population is at its lowest point in more than 20 years. According to the studies the primary reason monarch butterflies are disappearing is the effects of Roundup and the use of Roundup resistant crops. In their winter habitat near Mexico City, monarch butterflies covered only 1.65 hectares in 2013, down from 44.5 hectares in 1996…a stunning collapse.

butterfly weed and monarch butterflies
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is vital to the reproduction cycle of monarch butterflies.

Monsanto & Roundup
Monsanto introduced Roundup in the 1970’s as a broad-spectrum herbicide (Monsanto also developed Agent Orange). In the mid-1990’s Monsanto brought so-called ‘Roundup Ready’ crops to American farmers. The one-two punch of Roundup and strains of plants resistant to Roundup proved an unbeatable combination for farmers desperate to increase yield. The problem is that it also changed the ecology of the landscape so drastically that the monarch butterfly population is in full retreat.

Farmers can plant crops that are not susceptible to the effects of Roundup, giving them the ability to spray comprehensively to kill anything not Roundup Ready. Corn, sorghum, canola, and soy are a few examples of Roundup Ready crops developed by Monsanto. Milkweed is not roundup ready.

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Liatris spicata – Blazing Star

Native to the eastern U.S., Liatris spicata, common name ‘blazing star’, tends to be a short-lived perennial. In my experience, Liatris needs replanting every couple of years. Liatris provides wonderful structure, juxtaposing well with other shapes and forms in the landscape.

liatris - blazing star
Liatris spicata – blazing star – cottage gardens, perennial gardens.

The purple flowers are just bright enough, neither heavy nor garish. Blazing star blooms in mid-summer, and the flowers are relatively long-lasting, developing over a period of 3-4 weeks.

Exposure is full sun. Many perennials in the south, Liatris included, can grow well with only a few hours of afternoon sun. Liatris is not choosy about soils, although consistently wet will cause the plant to rot.  Wet soil and poor drainage in winter will not do when it comes to Liatris and many other perennials. Oakleaf hydrangea is also prone to winter die-off where soils are consistently wet.

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