Soon Monarch butterflies will be moving through Texas, commencing their multi-generation migration after roosting and resting for the winter in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico.  Texas is generally the first “rest-stop” on the journey north.  Since

This Antelope Horn milkweed, Asclepias asperula, planted from seed in December 2010 is nowhere near ready to host Monarch butterflies

milkweed is the Monarch butterfly host plant and the only place females lay eggs, we feel obliged to have our gardens well-stocked with the native bloomer in early spring to provide a fitting Lone Star State welcome as they pass through town.
So where’s the milkweed?
Don’t know about you, but my milkweed is way behind schedule.  And I’m not alone.
“I don’t have any milkweed coming up yet,” says Peggy Winkler, an avid Austin butterfly fan and biologist, mother of three, and philanthropist.  Winkler wowed an Austin crowd at a Westcave Preserve/Children in Nature fundraiser last fall by producing 75 Monarch chrysalises for use in table centerpieces.   The chrysalises pupated from caterpillars she raised on Antelope Horn milkweed harvested from her ranch.
“I have quite a few Tropical Milkweed plants in pots (to raise caterpillars on) that I put in my garage when the cold hit, but they look pretty bad,”  she says.  “The temps stayed in the 20’s so long that even inside a closed garage with hardly any windows, they got hit.”
Help is on the way.  Dr. Ridlon “Kip” Kiphart, a retired cardio-vascular surgeon turned Texas Master Naturalist and perhaps one of the region’s most knowledgeable sources on milkweed cultivation, will lead a milkweed workshop next Tuesday, March 1 at 7 PM at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne.   Kiphart knows his milkweed, thanks to his work as curator of the award-winning Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project at Cibolo Nature Center.  The event is sponsored by the Boerne chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.
The “Where’s My Milkweed?” session will cover how to create a Monarch Waystation, which is a butterfly garden that features milkweed.   The program launches Boerne NPSOT’s M4M: Milkweed For Monarchs campaign, an offshoot of the University of Kansas and Monarch Watch’s Bring Back The Monarchs milkweed restoration effort, which was announced last fall.
Last year, the Monarch Butterfly was added to the World Wildlife Fund’s Ten Most Threatened Species List because of habitat loss in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. By planting milkweed, we can contribute a milkweed welcome mat here in Texas providing an auspicious start to their long journey, increasing their chances for reproduction, success and a continued migration.
The event is free and open to the public.  Hope to see you there.

Where’s My Milkweed?

featuring Dr. Kip Kiphart
Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project and Cibolo Nature Center                                                                                           Tuesday, March 1, 2011
6:30 socialize, program starts at 7 PM
Cibolo Nature Center
140 City Park Road
Boerne, Texas

If you’re wondering what kind of milkweed to plant, check out the Texas Butterfly Ranch guide to milkweed.