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Monarch Madness – On the Hunt for Milkweed in Buffalo

Yesterday, I set out to look for milkweed plants. The first place that I headed was to Urban Roots, on the city’s West Side. After walking around for a bit with my dog (the place is dog friendly), I finally came across an Urban Roots employee by the name of Bridget (lead image). She told me that they did indeed have milkweed. She also informed me that the milkweed plants, along with other indigenous plants, were grown by People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH). I had no idea that PUSH was involved with growing and selling native pollinators. Bridget also told me that the “swamp milkweed” that I was purchasing was a flowering version called “asclepias incarnata”. I was not aware of this type of milkweed, as the one that I was familiar with grew in sandy, beach areas, and looked more like this.

The monarch butterfly population in North America has plummeted by over 90% in just the last 20 years.

After I got home and planted the milkweed, I went to my computer to look up “different types of native milkweed”. When the search results came up, I found that there were a number of different types, and many of them were very beautiful. I always felt that milkweed had two strikes against it, which is why so many people pulled it… 1) The name “milkweed” denotes that it’s a weed, so it’s got to be bad. 2) It’s not known for its beauty.

The milkweed plants that I came across were not only colorful, they’re all vital to the survival of the monarch butterfly.

We are very fortunate to have milkweed available for sale at Urban Roots. I must also give a hat tip to PUSH Buffalo, for the stupendous effort to grow the plant. Now, if we can all do our part by planting some milkweed in our yards, we might be able to help the monarch butterfly slowly recover from adverse effects due to “destruction of America’s grasslands ecosystems, commercial agricultural practices and even conventional gardening (see here).” It’s time that we rethink what we are pulling and planting in our yards, and consider planting beautiful native pollinators instead. 

If you’re looking to stock up on milkweed, be sure to phone ahead to see if it’s available. Urban Roots has apparently been selling the plants as fast as they arrive. Also, if you want to be even more proactive in helping to save the monarch butterfly, then be sure to “like” and follow Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm right here in WNY. The butterfly farm sets up at farmer’s markets around the region, teaching people about the importance of monarch conservation. The farm also sells milkweed and monarch caterpillars. It’s time to be proactive, when it comes to taking a stand for native pollinators.

There’s one last item of interest when it comes to preserving and protecting native habitats. Often times, we at BRO get notices from real estate agents stating that they have “vacant” land for sale, when in reality it’s not vacant at all. Rather, it’s occupied by trees, birds, animals, etc. We must stop portraying our forested lands as “vacant”, because it’s not.

Urban sprawl is contributing to the problematic issues that the environment is facing. It’s time that we reevaluate what lands are actually “vacant” (parking lots), and what lands are visibly “occupied” (wooded acres).

Urban Roots | 428 Rhode Island Street | Buffalo, New York, NY 14213 | (716) 362-8982 | Facebook

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • Alex

    Oh boy. Another poorly researched / ill informed article.

    First: “It’s time that we rethink what we are pulling and planting in our yards.”

    WE? Overarching assumption. Some people have known about milkweed for decades and have been conscious of more than just old crappy buildings and new development that is the majority of content on this site.

    Second: According to the government (April 2017) we need another 1.8 billion milkweed plants to reverse the decline of the monarch population. The one or two plants you purchased this week is a start but wont make a dent.

    Third: Milkweed is only one of many plants that monarchs are attracted to. It would have been more accurate / journalistic / informative to include a list of other plants if the concern is really about saving monarchs. (source: Edible WNY, Summer 2017 edition)

    This article is leaning toward “alternative facts” with its limited information.

    • Charles Day

      For someone claiming there needs to be more research on the topic, you should start with yourself;

      “Third: Milkweed is only one of many plants that monarchs are attracted to. It would have been more accurate / journalistic / informative to include a list of other plants if the concern is really about saving monarchs.”

      Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs.

      • foreverbflo

        You can have all kinds of “feel-good” flowering perennials and shrubs…. mostly non native – that “attract” butterflies. But you CANNOT have an increase in monarch butterfly population without their chief food source = asclepias. Providing nectar sources for butterflies is great for observing, feeling good, showing the kids, etc…, but if we dont make more butterflies – through the provision of their sole food source for the larvae – then it is all for naught.
        One very common misunderstood plant is the “butterfly bush”, buddleia spp. It attracts all kinds of butterflies and pollinators all season long but provides zero food source to attract adults to lay eggs. No eggs = no increased or sustained populations.

        We focus on Native plants for a very key reason; the insects that feed on them and multiply. No insects = no birds = no plants = no food = no life.

        Insects are everything but we spend millions+ $$ in N America each year to eradicate them because they are a creepy inconvenience. Ask and PhD entomologist. Canisius has a very good one.

        Instead of No Farms = No Food, it should be No Pollinators/Insects = No Life.

        Very fundamental 6th grade-ish science. But we LOVE to complicate it beyond this.

        • Max Chester

          You do realize that most people, and certainly most Americans, read less than 1 book per year, no? Humans do not choose their ‘breeding partners” according to intelligence, thus each generation’s brain power steadily declines. It’s silly to expect ignorant people to care about butterflies, when they have no understanding of the world around them. On the other hand, if we need 1.8 Billion new milkweed plants to help the Monarchs, that’s only 6 plants per American person – a very do-able figure.

          I want to ameliorate about 60 feet of ugly fence which my new house-flipping “neighbor” slapped-up; a bank of milkweed might be perfect. I ain’t gonna purchase them from a wannabee-Commie org such as PUSH, though. I’ll try starting from seeds, instead.

          • Matt Marcinkiewicz

            *wannabe. Unless it was a bad attempt at a pun, given the general subject matter. Just figured I’d call out the guy calling out all of society for lack of collective brainpower.

          • grovercleveland

            You must just be a delight at parties.

  • Michael Jarosz

    As some commentators here have noted, this article could
    have been better researched. I won’t get into the discussion about butterfly
    life cycles, but I will say that milkweed, scientifically known as asclepias,
    is a common garden flower.

    “If you’re looking to stock up on milkweed, be sure to phone
    ahead to see if it’s available.”

    Almost every mail order garden catalog (I get dozens of
    them) has them. Why else would you have found it on your first stop? There are many different species of asclepias.
    One is A.speciosa. I found 22 different
    sources for this one species alone at a single website. Some offer plants,
    others offer seeds. They grow like weeds, hence the name “milkweed”.

    Here it is in no less than the Burpee catalog:

    The article is written as if finding milkweed was some great
    scientific rediscovery of an endangered species when it is actually a personal
    discovery of something many others already knew. That’s great, we all have
    personal discoveries of things we were not aware of. But write about it as such.
    The breathless “let’s rush to save milkweed and the monarch too” tone is unnecessary.
    There are gardens growing asclepias all over WNY. The article even admits that
    Urban Roots is selling milkweeds “as fast as they arrive.” They’re out there growing even as we read this.

    • Bridget

      I won’t go into the tone of the article but in my experience it is unusual to find a milkweed plant available for sale at a garden center. I’m sure you can find seeds and plants through catalogues but to be able to go to a brick and mortar store and find native plants is still fairly unusual. As the person pictured in the article, I can attest to introducing some native varieties to customers who might not have considered them if they had to start them from seed or ordered away for them. Maybe there are other garden centers that carry Asclepias and Eutrochium Purpureum (Joe Pye Weed) and a whole host of other natives. I haven’t seen them available anywhere, and I think the author was happy to be able to walk to a very local shop and pick up a plant!

  • sbrof

    Penny wise and pound foolish. More milkweed plants were destroyed in the last 10 months in North Buffalo by the decimation of the old rail road row, than will ever be planted by gardenerst across County.

    You want to protect monarchs and pollinators, we need to converse what little is left for them first.

    Here is milkweed in bloom today in the patches that remain