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!
- Read all about Butterfly Milkweed on our Fact Sheet.
- 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 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.
- If you are a Spanish speaker or know Spanish speakers, share with them this Monarch and Milkweed Fact Sheet in Spanish, written by Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall of Lincoln University.
- See also “Backyard Habitat Requirements for Monarch Butterflies” from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
- Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide produced by The Xerces Society of Invertebrate 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.
- Milkweeds & Monarchs, 16-page booklet from the Missouri Department of Conservation, provides great information on what you can do to help conserve monarch butterflies. The Missouri Prairie Foundation and its Grow Native! program are partners with the Missouri Department of Conservation and many other conservation and agricultural groups working together as the Missouri Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative on the conservation of these important insects.
- Learn more about amazing Monarch migration with this downloadable Migration Marathon game from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Plant milkweeds and nectar plants and seeds
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.
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.
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.
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