Monday, May 3, 2010

Milkweed for Monarchs at Rio Salado Habitat

Come and join in the fun on Saturday, May 8, to plant Asclepias angustifolia, Narrowleaf or Arizona Milkweed, by the waterfall at the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat. The habitat is located on the NE corner of Central Ave and the Salt River in downtown Phoenix. We begin at 9 a.m. -- bring your shovels, garden gloves and anything you might need to plant these hardy one gallon plants. Lucky for us, Narrowleaf milkweed grows in the shade and the plan is to place them along the small creek, so we'll be cool no matter the temperature. Be ready to get a bit wet and enjoy the fun of meeting other friends of the monarchs in Phoenix. (Rumor is home-made brownies will be available, too!)

Monarch butterflies stop along the creek to sip moisture from the surrounding bank. Planting a shade-loving milkweed as a host-plant is part of the plan to protect the fragile overwintering habitat and make it suitable for monarch breeding in the spring or fall. Enjoying the refreshing spring and fall bloom will add to the habitat's delight.

We are working with the staff at the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat to protect the area frequented by monarch butterflies during the fall and winter months. In a nearby pond, just west of the waterfall area, two beavers took up residence and are chomping on cottonwood trees. Rangers found several trees chewed down, so they contacted several experts in the area to determine the best way to preserve the habitat. With the spring water surge in the Salt River, more beaver activity appeared up and down the river. Right now its unclear how many beavers are in the area.

Why the concern about beavers? The trees that protect the canopy for monarchs are a fragile ecosystem. Rangers are concerned if beavers move to the waterfall area they will damage more cottonwood trees fracturing the wind and temperature protection the habitat offers the monarch butterflies. So they are discussing the best way to approach the situation since beavers and water naturally go together. From observing the beavers they did find that beavers seem to favor only the cottonwood trees and they appear to leave the willows, a favorite of the monarchs, alone. Management and rangers are looking at the possibility of placing fencing around the waterfall habitat to keep the beavers out of this fragile area while protecting the milkweed and monarch habitat. Stay tuned for more information when it becomes available.

Southwest Monarch Study now has a new Facebook page where you can find more information about monarchs and upcoming events. See:
Become a friend by saying you "like" it and keep up to date with the newest information and sightings of monarchs around the state.

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