Q&A with Horticulture staff member, Sharmon Provan, Plant Records Coordinator & Plant Propagator and Monarch Waystation project manager at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Q. Why and How did Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (CMBG) become a Monarch Waystation?
A. Finding no Monarch butterflies at CMBG last year, after many years of great numbers of them, we wanted to aid in supporting and increasing the Monarch migration which has been greatly affected by deforestation and loss of habitats for Monarchs (and other wildlife) for development in Mexico and the U.S. According to Monarch Watch over 6,000 acres a day of land is developed per day in the U.S. alone. Also, the use of non-selective systemic herbicides, such as glyphosate, which is heavily used in farming, and even heavy roadside mowing, are wiping our native milkweed plants, the Monarch’s main food and nectar source. In celebration of our 2014 theme, “Pollinators!”, becoming a Monarch Waystation was one more way we could ‘educate-by-doing’, or lead by example, to make everyone aware of the importance of pollinators in our ecosystems and how easy it is to get involved. We contacted www.monarchwatch.org and followed their basic directions to get certified.
Q. What did you have to do for CMBG to become certified Monarch Waystation?
A. First, we had to commit to providing enough of the right types of plants, especially Milkweeds, to support a population of Monarch caterpillars. We are a colossal size garden and have committed over 5,000 square feet and most of our upper main campus to this project. Plant density is important, so we have made sure we have at least 2-10 plants from the Monarch Watch list per square yard. We’ve learned more is always better! We supplemented our existing nectar and other food source plants by bringing in many new types of plants, including annuals, perennials, and shrubs. We started so many extra milkweed plants in our greenhouse this spring that we could barely walk through the aisles!
Monarch Watch has a comprehensive list of plant species that are nectar sources for monarchs. It does not take much for a home gardener to be involved – one square yard is enough to get started. Monarch Watch also provides milkweed plants for those who do not have another source, but most nurseries and garden centers are starting to carry the plants, if they did not before, due to the increased interest. Submit an online application with Monarch Watch – it’s easy!
Q. What is the expected (hoped for) outcome of the Monarch Waystation project?
A. Hopefully, we have succeeded in providing a habitat for the migrating Monarch butterflies. We did see a number of tagged Monarchs around the gardens, so they came in from somewhere else. We also raised Monarchs here this summer, and the butterflies that we released, and the numerous additional butterflies, caterpillars and chrysalises we are finding in our gardens this summer give us hope we have made a difference in the protection and support of the Monarch species.
Q. What are your observations based on summer 2014. Successes and surprises?
A. We have learned a lot about the process of raising Monarchs, and realized just how many eggs they lay, and just how much they actually eat!
Q. What are the ‘next steps’ in being a Monarch Waystation
A. We have committed to being a Monarch Waystation, so we have committed to providing the food source for the Monarch butterflies indefinitely. I would like us to start the tagging process next year so progress can be tracked as the butterflies migrate. Maybe we will get proof that our own butterflies made it to their winter destination.