Thursday, March 8, 2012

Plant Sales in the Air - Help the Monarchs!

A few days ago I was working in the yard when this ragged male monarch butterfly arrived. His faded, ripped wings stood in sharp contrast to the many freshly eclosed monarchs around. He had quite an attitude zipping around, trying to drive out the other butterflies. How many monarchs would choose to rest on the top of a fence to have a good view over the territory? Then I remembered how close we are to the time of the Spring Migration. Monarchs should be arriving soon from both from Mexico and California passing through Arizona. They are already spotted in Southern Texas. What better way to get ready for their visit than to infuse your Monarch Waystation with new milkweeds and nectar with all the plant sales beginning this week?

Male Monarch
Start your plant list with the new Low Desert Monarch Waystation publication we just created on the SW Monarch Study web page. You'll find milkweeds that grow well here as well as recommended nectar sources. You can find photos of milkweed on the site as well. 

Red Admiral
 Many nurseries recommend Butterfly Bush but seasoned gardeners in the low deserts find it doesn't grow well here and it is not included on the list. Our summer heat is insurmountable for some species. But, I did find one Butterfly Bush that thrives here with afternoon shade - a definite keeper. It is a cultivar only available and created at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The pale Spring lilac blooms are profuse and fragrant - and covered with butterflies. This morning I found eight butterflies feasting  including several monarchs, red admirals (three on the plant this morning!), queens, gulf fritillaries, and a West Coast Lady. Plus hummingbirds love it, too!

So take a few moments and visit some of the upcoming Spring Plant Sales for great selections for your garden:
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior:  March 10 to 25 (Members only March 9)
  • Desert Survivors in Tucson:  March 10 to 18 (Members only), March 17 & 18 (Public)
  • Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix: March 16 (Members only), March 17 & 18 
  • Tohono Chul in Tucson:  March 31 & April 1
If you'd like to learn more about the exciting monarch migration through Arizona stop by the SW Monarch Study table this weekend at the Tres Rios Nature Festival at the Estrella Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix. We'll have great educational information as well as activities for children.

If you are a teacher, scout or 4-H leader, anyone interested in learning more about monarch butterflies in Arizona sign up for Monarch Educator Workshop at the Valley Verde Birding and Nature Festival in Cottonwood on Saturday, April 28. This is a great opportunity to learn more details about the monarch life cycle, the migration through Arizona and monarch citizen science opportunities.

You can also see up to the minute news about monarchs on the Southwest Monarch Study Facebook page. This is a public page - you don't need a Facebook account to access.

The SW Monarch Study also has a discussion group to share monarch related sightings and new studies in more detail. You can learn more about this group and join here.

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