Monarch Field Habitat

Having decided I must take action locally after my previous posts about the decline of Monarch butterflies, I contacted a fellow gardener who has kids in the local elementary school.  Previously, over the twenty plus years I’ve lived here, I had volunteered to do garden projects at the school and knew they were open to my ideas. She was enthusiastic, so together we coordinated a project to plant a field at the school to help our native pollinators.

She worked with the school and town officials to establish a no-mow area and canvassed for volunteers. She gave me contacts to the PTO so I could ask for funding. I also went to our local garden club to ask for a donation. I received enough to purchase 250 Milkweed and Coneflower plants from a local grower who kindly gave us wholesale pricing.

Thanks to six adult volunteers and one intrepid homeschooler, we came together one afternoon this week to plant our Monarch butterfly field habitat.  In the space of a few hours, two hundred and fifty plants were added to the south-facing bank of the field at the end of the parking lot. When flowering, these will be visible from the road, brightening the school grounds while simultaneously providing crucial native pollinator habitat.

IMG_9521The decline of monarchs and native pollinators has reached a critical juncture and through the efforts of conservation organizations and gardeners, we hope to make a difference in their survival.


The planting will also serve as an educational tool for teachers to use for various age levels of children in both spring and fall. On-going studies can be conducted through the years that children attend the Grammar School. The field will be mowed once in the fall at the end of the growing season.

Adult Monarch on Tithonia Photo:

Adult Monarch on Tithonia Photo:

It is not too late to add more plants attractive to pollinators to your own garden. Monarch Watch recommends planting in groups of seven or more of each species to supply the needs of both adults and larva. (These are merely guidelines, whatever you can plant will be a positive improvement.) The most popular are Milkweed (Asclepias spp.), Coneflower (Echinacea sp.), Gayfeather (Liatrus spp.), New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Iron Weed (Veronia baldwinii),Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Zinnia (Z. elegans), French Marigold (Tagetes patula), Verbena (V. spp.) and Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) Willow, Cherry and Poplar are good host plants for other types of butterfly larva. Monarch only lay eggs on Milkweed. Please help bring back the Monarchs!



About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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32 Responses to Monarch Field Habitat

  1. Iana Roy says:

    This is a wonderful project Eliza. Congratulations!

  2. What a wonderful project! Great job on enlisting such wide-spread community support! It will become a wonderful outdoor classroom, and a reminder to all to do what is possible to improve the environment. The plants you’ve chosen will be absolutely stunning when in bloom, and of course the natives will return to the field now that mowing has stopped. I hope you’ll post photos late in the summer when it is blooming and full of life. I’m so happy to know that such a garden is there to foster the Monarchs this summer, and going forward. May all be well with you, WG

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks Elizabeth for your kind words. I hope our little plants will grow large enough this year to take pictures of! If so, I’ll post an update.

      • Oh, the coneflowers would in Virginia- I hope they will for you so far north. We can raise them from seeds and enjoy decent blooms in the same season. Am looking forward to your update 😉

  3. This is fabulous! I have a lot of milkweed in my garden, which serves as a large organic pollinator garden. I’m really hoping to have more Monarchs this year. Common milkweed popped up in my neighbors landscaping and they’ve agreed to leave it be. Hooray! Perhaps change is on the way?

  4. dorannrule says:

    This is a beautiful effort to save the Monarchs. We do have a lot of milk weed around here and I love purple cone flowers. I hope we see the beautiful creatures come this way.

  5. Jewels says:

    This is so wonderful!

  6. Treah says:

    You’re doing great work here!
    Botanical Interests has wildflower mixes especially mixed for different needs. This year I’ve sown their “Bring Home the Butterflies” mix which contains 27 different kinds of seed for both adults & their caterpillars. Plus it will beautify your garden all summer.

  7. Good for you Eliza! I am trying to add plants that attract pollinators. Thank you for the list

  8. That’s wonderful, Eliza.

    Thank you for all you (and others!) do to aid in Nature’s miracles. 🙂

  9. ladyfi says:

    What a great initiative!

  10. I love the idea of this outdoor classroom and the sense of community you brought to this endeavor. You can feel the energy and momentum through this post!

  11. Eliza, please keep us posted on how this project goes. I hope you inspire many to follow your example. I just put out my butterfly flower and cosmos seedlings yesterday… Russian sage blossoms are also on the way, and the bees and local butterflies have already enjoyed many fruit tree blossoms. Like you, I believe that every little bit counts.

  12. mk says:

    Thank you for all you do, Eliza.

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  14. Hello Eliza, I wonder if you read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior?” Central to the plot is the arrival of millions of monarch butterflies into a Tennessee valley. The book explores much of what you discuss today.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you, yes, I did read it when it first came out. Kingsolver’s topics raise awareness and I hope many who read it are called to act. The use of GMOs and glyphosate (Roundup) in agriculture are directly responsible for the decline. Let your state representatives know this is only one of many species (including us!) that are suffering from its effects. Thank you for stopping by!

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  16. gaiainaction says:

    Very interesting. Lets hope we can bring back some of our rarer butterflies before they die out totally. Great work.

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