Wolf River Conservancy Monarch Habitat

Exciting News! The Wolf River Conservancy in Memphis, TN has partnered with the Association For Butterflies and the Memphis Zoo to make a Monarch butterfly native milkweed habitat on its land. Monarch butterflies migrate through Memphis in April, and these butterflies look for milkweed to feed their young. And now K…ristin Bobo of Lowe’s Home Improvement store on Germantown Parkway has donated enough mulch to protect all the milkweed beds! Milkweed is germinating now, and seedlings will be planted in late April. We’ll keep you in touch!

The project is going well, although seed germination started late and they won’t know the actual planting date for about 3 weeks. Looks like late April now. All the donated money and some additional money has been spent.

April 22, 2010
The 3 flower beds have been dug and mulched on the Lovett property of the Wolf River Conservancy (WRC). We will plant 180 swamp milkweed seedlings on April 24th-Earth Day. I will speak that morning and would love to be able to release Monarchs, but don’t have any. I may release something else.

I will send their flyer and schedule of events with another email.

There will be two Mature plants planted in every flower bed so all can see how the plants should look in a few years. I have a newpaper journalist writing up the event.

Don’t know yet how we will water them, but I may ask the WRC to help with that, too.

It is almost finished!

I hope the rabbits don’t eat my seedlings!

Celeste Bursi
Butterflies in Memphis

April 25, 2010 – Project Completed!

Everyone loves seeing butterflies flit about in the garden, especially the orange and black monarchs that are now making their way through our area on their journey northward.

MonarchThe pink flowers of swamp milkweed attract monarch butterflies who lay their eggs underneath its leaves.

Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed, and the foliage of the plant is the only food the emerging caterpillars will eat. So it just makes sense that the more milkweed is growing in our gardens and natural spaces, the more monarchs we will see.

Last Sunday, a group of butterfly lovers, conservationists and other volunteers installed 15 flats of native swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) in two wetland areas protected by the Wolf River Conservancy.

Celeste Bursi, president of the Tennessee chapter of Butterfly Rescue International, spearheaded the project after receiving a small grant from the Association for Butterflies to buy seeds and plants.

“The goal is for these seedlings to grow to maturity in a couple of years and then disperse their seeds all over the Wolf River area,” said Bursi, who also grows and sells butterflies through her company, Butterflies in Memphis.

Getting people to help with the project proved to be an easy sell for Bursi.

Jill Maybry, horticulturist at the Memphis Zoo, germinated the seeds and grew plants in the zoo’s greenhouse. The Wolf River Conservancy provided the land for the beds. Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse on Germantown Road provided mulch.

Volunteers from Comcast, Clean Memphis, Kohl’s Department Stores, Girl Scouts, 4-H groups, Immaculate Conception High School, Southwest Tennessee Community College and the City of Memphis Office of Youth Services worked in the rain-soaked beds.

Nine members of Delta 7 AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corp., who are in Memphis to work with the Wolf River Conservancy, helped as well.

After spending the winter in Mexico, monarchs lay their eggs as they migrate northward, passing through our region in March and April.

The adult offspring of those eggs are thought to continue the migration northward.

“It’s been my experience that some of them will stay if there is enough milkweed and warm weather,” Bursi said. Monarchs return to Mexico in August.

Swamp milkweed, which has attractive pink flowers, is a close relative of the orange-flowering milkweed commonly called butterfly weed.

Monarchs will lay their eggs on any type of milkweed, but they especially like the tropical variety, which is grown here as an annual.

You don’t have to have a swamp to grow the pink-flowering milkweed. It grows in sunny to partly shaded places. And unlike the orange-blooming variety, swamp milkweed likes wet soil, making it easier to grow in our clay soil.

Its fragrant pink-to-mauve flowers bloom in mid- to late summer, about the same time as Joe Pye Weed and swamp sunflowers.

The flowers are followed by green pods filled with seeds. When the seeds mature, the pod splits open so wind carries the silky-haired seeds to new places.