Monarch butterfly. Photo: Justin Klingsmith
Natives for Monarch Butterflies
Citizens in Missouri and far beyond are concerned about the dramatic drop in monarch butterfly populations, which is due in large part to the decline of the monarch butterfly caterpillar host plants, milkweed species (Asclepias) across its North American migratory route. Plants that provide nectar sources for adult butterflies—as well as many, many other beneficial insects including numerous pollinators—are also of critical importance.
Below is information and links to resources that can help you help monarchs!
- Conserving original habitat for monarch butterflies, including prairies, as well as establishing milkweed and nectar plant in developed landscapes—farmland, other rural areas, and in yards, school grounds, parks, and corporate campuses—is of critical importance. Learn how to garden for monarchs in this Missouri Prairie Journal article by Susie van de Reit.
- Learn the basic facts about monarchs in this Monarch Fact Sheet, compiled with information from Monarch Watch and Monarch Joint Venture, courtesy of Missouri Master Naturalists, Confluence Chapter. Fact sheet includes a monarch butterfly migration map. You can also download thorough information on milkweed seed collecting.
- See also “Backyard Habitat Requirements for Monarch Butterflies” from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
- Establish a Monarch Way Station, a program of Monarch Watch.
- Help record northward migration of monarchs for the Journey North organization.
- If you are a landowner and want to establish or improve grassland habitat for monarchs, cost-share programs are available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
- Learn more about amazing Monarch migration with this downloadable Migration Marathon game from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Eight featured milkweed species and associated pollinators native to the Lower Midwest
The foliage of these milkweed species native to the lower Midwest provide food for monarch caterpillars. Download the brochure here.
Learn more about each species through our Native Plant Database:
- Asclepias incarnata – marsh milkweed
- Asclepias purpurascens – purple milkweed
- Asclepias sullivantii – Sullivant’s milkweed
- Asclepias syriaca – common milkweed
- Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly milkweed
- Asclepias verticillata – whorled milkweed
- Asclepias viridiflora – green milkweed
- Asclepias viridis – spider milkweed
If you are a retail garden center and want to buy native milkweed plants from wholesalers, contact a Grow Native! wholesaler and ask to buy milkweed plants with Monarch Café plant tags, a marketing tool created by Grow Native! Monarch Café tags are available for purchase by Grow Native! supporting members and sponsors.
Plant milkweeds and nectar plants
The following milkweed species native to Missouri are particularly important for monarchs: marsh/swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), and butterfly milkweed (Asclepius tuberosa).
A few of the many nectar plants that are important to monarchs and many other insect species are eastern blazing star (Liatris scariosa), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).
You can purchase seeds and plants of these species from Grow Native! Professional Members who are retail garden centers, nurseries, or see producers. Find seed and plant vendors with our online Resource Guide and note which businesses sell retail, wholesale, and/or mail order.