Got Milkweed? Hancock Park Garden Club Does.

A Monarch alights on some flowering narrow leaf milkweed.
A Monarch alights on some flowering narrow leaf milkweed.

This is the fourth article in a series the Larchmont Buzz is publishing on spring planting, pollinators in peril, and drought tolerant garden design. This story from guest contributor Iris Craddock.

The Hancock Park Garden Club (HPGC)  has a goal this spring: bring back the butterflies. The HPGC  “Pollinator Project” wants resident gardeners in the greater Hancock Park area to plant habitat for pollinators – the butterflies, bees and birds who are important to our environment.

Pollinators are the catalysts for growing things everywhere.  Due to a lack of native habitat and wide-spread human use of systemic insecticides on lawns and plants, our winged friends are few and far between these days, particularly the Monarch butterfly. In the 1990s there were literally billions of Monarchs fluttering through the U.S., today scientists estimate that only about 56.5 million monarchs remain, representing a decline of more than 80%.

A Monarch caterpillar stretched out for dinner on a milkweed.
A Monarch caterpillar stretched out for dinner on a milkweed.

The HPGC decided that attracting these busy small creatures to a “Monarch Way Station” in the heart of Los Angeles would be a valuable project.  Numerous neighborhoods across the nation are trying to plant Monarch Way sStations, and our Southern California climate and flora can provide perfect habitat for the Monarch and other butterflies and bees.  Many California native plants are pollinator-friendly: they are colorful and provide a food source.  Plus, the California natives don’t require much water once established, an important factor in this time of drought.

This spring the HPGC is urging neighbors to plant Asclepias Fascicularis (Narrow Leaf Milkweed) the milkweed native to our area. Milkweed is the only plant on which the mature Monarch lays eggs, and it provides the sole food source for hatched caterpillars.  However, in order to preserve the natural life cycle of the Monarchs in our area, only the Narrow Leaf Milkweed should be used. The South American tropical types of milkweed that are often found in nurseries carry a fungus (called “OE”) that Monarchs carry from plant to plant on their bellies, further spreading the fungus. Caterpillars eat the fungus-infected milkweed and their wings do not grow properly in chrysalis — thus they die before flight.

Windsor Square sisters Liz Gabor and Lauren Gabor have taken on the challenge of  growing the Narrow Leaf milkweed from seed and intend to sell it at a reasonable cost via the HPGC Garden Club to residents in the area. Experts believe that if a community can get 70 somewhat contiguous yards planted with milkweed, it will provide enough habitat to start making a difference in the Monarch population.

Unfortunately, the milkweed is taking a bit longer to get established than originally thought, and the milkweed sale has been rescheduled to occur on a weekend in May instead of April. The milkweed will be sold in front of Landis Gifts and Stationery, at 138 N Larchmont Blvd.

Stay tuned to the Buzz for more information. If you’d like to be notified directly please contact Liz Gabor by email. There will also be packets of pollinator seeds available on sale day.

Larchmont Buzz: Liz Gabor’s Caterpillar to Monarch Journey

Larchmont Buzz: Pollinators In Peril: Plant for the Monarch

 Guest contributor Iris Craddock is a member of the Hancock Park Garden Club and a resident of Windsor Square.

Another short film by Monarch Mama Liz Gabor: the birth of a new Monarch in her home on Christmas Day, 2014.

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