Join us for a fun night of planting! We will have a mini class discussing planters and hanging basket combinations. We will talk about utilizing plants that work for you and making the most of bloom time and combination placement.
We will go over maintenance, design and try to answer any other questions you may have!
Feel free to BYOB – we will have light refreshments and snacks. You may also bring your own planter from home if you wish, we will have some pots and hanging baskets available for purchase.
The drop in style class will be held on Thursday, May 25th from 6PM to 8PM. Class attendees will get 10% off all materials purchased for planting.
Please send questions to Elise (978) 471 – 9979
Cost $15/ Class. Please sign up no later than Wednesday night.
What a joy to meet these members of Creating Commons Collective, a grassroots organization passionate about developing beautiful, native plants landscapes for our community.
The project at Blackburn traffic circle began last spring.The soli was tilled (with the help of Mass DOT) and the first batch of plants were introduced. The group is selectively adding native flowering plants with the long term goal of creating a self-sustaining, pollinator friendly, native plants meadow.
Sarah mentioned Creating Commons Collective native plants project at Burnham’s Field, which I am very eager to go check out, and Nick shared a recent article “Improvised Landscapes” that he wrote for Arnoldia, the quarterly publication of the Arnold Arboretum. It’s a great read and you can find the link to the article below.
By Nicholas Anderson April 4, 2023
OVER THE YEARS I have abandoned and inverted my horticultural training, and today, I struggle to describe what I do. When time is short, I simply say that I make meadows with native plants; sometimes I use the term “ecological maximalism.” But definitions don’t really matter when it’s late September, and I’m stopping off at a patch of dirt in Gloucester, Massachusetts, sandwiched between a new housing development and a Market Basket on the edge of a woodland remnant. Just now I don’t particularly need any new plants, as I have a dozen or so ongoing meadow projects that double as plant nurseries, but I can’t resist a salvage mission before going grocery shopping. I walk past orange-painted surveyors’ stakes through one of the spots where I scattered seeds the previous winter. Most of the seedlings have succumbed to the drought, but a few anemic partridge-pea plants (Chamaecrista fasciculata) are visible amidst the tire tracks. This space is used as a parking lot for little league games in the summer and the city deposits untold tons of salty snow here every winter. Remarkably, whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia) and sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) insist on colonizing into the very spot that gets savaged by the plows year after year. I pull up four rhizomes of the sweet fern and grab two tiny volunteers of winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) before heading over to the other side of the lot, where frost aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum) and oldfield goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) are in bloom amidst mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and tendrils of asian bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). Out of the midst of these introduced species, I yank up twenty-odd plants with tender violence and put them in a wet, plastic bag.
The presence of the Eastern Monarch population in Mexico’s transvolcanic mountain forests was 22 percent less this winter compared to last winter, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) annual count.
Rather than counting individual butterflies, the Monarchs are counted by the number of hectares they occupy. This past winter, the Monarchs occupied 2.21 hectares, down from 2.84 hectares in 2021-2022. A hectare is approximately 2.47 acres. A threshold of at least 6 hectares is recommended to sustain the eastern population.
For more precise information on how the Monarchs are counted read more from Monarch Joint Venture –
Estimating the Number of Overwintering Monarchs in Mexico
Contributors: Gail Morris, Karen Oberhauser, Lincoln Brower
Every year we anxiously await news of the monarch overwintering population count from Mexico. When are they done and how are the monarchs counted?
Monarchs go through four phases while overwintering in Mexico: their arrival, the establishment of an overwintering colony, colony movement and finally the spring dispersal.
The first fall migrating monarchs usually arrive at the overwintering sites in late October through mid-November. In this early phase, the monarchs are largely scattered and diffuse in their flight, moving frequently through an area and eventually creating small clusters at night, while still continuing to move through the forest. During the day, their movement is common and widespread, as they search for the perfect sheltered location to spend the winter.
As temperatures dip colder, monarchs begin to form larger and denser clusters, settling into smaller and protected areas at elevations of 2900-3300 meters (9,500 to 10,800 feet.) This usually occurs from mid-December through early February and the monarchs principally roost in oyamel trees although they use pines and other trees as well. This is the coldest time of the year where monarchs are most compact and stationary in their clusters, a time of winter survival with little movement.
By mid-February, temperatures are gradually climbing and the monarchs begin expanding their clusters. They slowly begin to move down the mountain on warm, sunny days searching for water to drink in nearby creeks. They return to the safety of the nearby forest as temperatures drop. The final phase is the monarch dispersal as the population gradually begins its movement north.
The traditional time of the annual overwintering count in Mexico is in late December when the clusters are most compact and movement is minimal. So how are the estimates done? How do you estimate how many monarchs there are in an area?
The World Wildlife Fund and the MBBR have measured the monarch population each year since the winter of 2004-2005. The occupied trees are mapped in each colony. Beginning with the highest tree in the periphery, the counters use a measuring tape or distance meter and compass to measure the perimeter using a series of lines connecting trees along the boundary. The enclosed area is then calculated in hectares.
Researchers have estimated that there are approximately 21.1 million butterflies per hectare, although this number most certainly varies with the time of the winter as the colonies contract, expand, and move. It also varies with the density and size of the trees in the colony. Based on this estimate the largest population of monarchs occurred in 1996-1997 when the colonies covered over 18 hectares and contained an estimated 380 million butterflies. To date the lowest population recorded was in 2013-2014 with 0.67 hectares and approximately 14 million monarchs.
While population estimates are recorded back to the winter of 1976-1977, long term counts of monarchs previously occupying the overwintering sites for comparison are limited due to a lack of complete data.
Keep in mind that the monarch overwintering estimates in Mexico are done when the monarchs are most compact in the trees. While counts continue biweekly during the time the monarchs are in the area, the end of December counts are used for comparison from year to year.
A very brief Monarch population status update – For the second year in a row, the Western Monarch population is seeing an uptick in numbers. The population is at roughly at 335,000, up from the historic low of only 2,000 counted in 2020. Two years of relatively good numbers gives us all hope the Western population can be saved.
It appears as though the Eastern Monarch population is not doing quite as well as last year. The final count for the winter of 2022- 2023 is not yet in. We’ll check back in on that count as soon as the graph becomes available.
Sunday afternoon, I’ll be screening Beauty on the Wing at the New Providence Memorial Library in New Jersey. New Providence is only about 20 minutes from my Mom and Aunt’s childhood home and it was at my Grandmother’s gardens where I first fell in love with the natural world.
I am also super excited to share that we will be screening Beauty on the Wing for school children (and grownups) across Prince Edward County on June 23rd. Prince Edward County in on Lake Ontario and is a late summer gathering point for Monarchs before crossing the Lake into the US. The entire long point peninsula on the South Shore of Prince Edward County is a designated International Monarch Butterfly Reserve (established in1995).
“The land area of the IBA (editor’s note- Canadian acronym for Important Bird Areas) is comprised of shallow soil over limestone bedrock with areas of alvar habitat. Much of the habitat consists of old field (savannah) and shrub thickets, with small deciduous and coniferous forests being present. In addition to several natural wetlands, the IBA contains two large wetland areas created after berm construction by Ducks Unlimited. The IBA is important for concentrations of migrating birds, bats and butterflies and also supports several rare vascular plants including Four-leaved Milkweed, Butternut, Bicknell’s Sedge, Short-stalked Chickweed, Brainerd’s Hawthorn, Limestone Hedge-hyssop, Green Arrow-arum, White-tinged Sedge, Eastern Few-fruited Sedge, Ram’s-head Lady’s-slipper, and Carolina Whitlow-grass. Largely undisturbed sites are important to ensure survival of these plants.”
OUR DEEPEST CONGRATULATIONS TO ELISE AND TUCKER FROM CEDAR ROCK GARDENS – CELEBRATING 10 YEARS!!!
Elise writes the seasonal update for Cedar Rock, opening April 12th, and if you read further, she shares the history of the past ten years, beginning with the farm’s earliest days.
We Love You Cedar Rock Gardens! Thank you for ten years of beautiful flowers, veggies, native plants, and herbs (and a joyous farm at which to visit and to shop).
IT’S THAT TIME:
Welcome to the 2023 Season!
~We will be open April 12th for the season. We have some really wonderful perennials starting up this year including a big native plant selection and many that are enticing to pollinators of all kinds.
~ We have a new nursery manger this year, Maarit, who is coming to us from Rockport. She is quickly becoming well versed in all things Cedar Rock and will be a great addition to our team this year. She has a background in cheesemaking and is looking forward to learning about soil health and growing bangin’ brassicas and cut flowers.
~As always we will have many cold tolerant veggies, herbs and flowers to plant early in the season, so make sure to plan some space in the garden to get some early successions going.
~We will also have a larger medicinal herb selection this year, we have had success trialing some new varieties from seed that will be available and we are partnering with our friend Emma at MilkyWay Apothecary to provide varieties she has grown and divided.
~Tomato and pepper release day – along with all the other delicious warm weather veggies and plants – will be May 17th. That is when you will be able to shop all the plants that can be planted outside without a danger of frost hurting them.
~Check out our website for a list of plants we will be carrying this year – if you do not see something you want just send an email.
~We are finally at a point where we can satisfactorily host classes at our farm. Look forward to an announcement in March about what you can expect to learn about in some of our class offerings. Along with that we will be utilizing our social media platforms much more with tidbits and tips on planting, soil health, garden planning, variety differences and general dirt nerd kinds of stuff – so follow us on Instagram or Facebook for those goodies if you don’t already.
~ We have a fantastic program starting at Cedar Rock this spring called farm friends. An amazing mama and teacher, Alyssa Pitman, will be hosting parent/child time at the farm on Fridays with a nature school type curriculum. Stay tuned to our Instagram this week for a way to sign up as space is limited.
~ We are still in the planning process of some pretty cool events and opportunities to celebrate being in business for a decade now.
~If you are growing any of your own seeds, now is the time to start your perennial herbs, flowering sweet peas and parsley!
Okay now that all that good stuff is out of the way I can dwell for a minute on the fact that we are celebrating 10 years in business this year with a trip down memory lane for anyone that wonders how it all began.
I was just recently speaking to a dear friend of mine who has started a farm in New Mexico. They had an intense year of natural catastrophes between fire and floods on their farm. We were lamenting on the past season and I relayed some advice I didn’t even know I had stored.
‘You have to figure out a way to put the prior season’s emotions and climate induced trauma behind you in order to continue successfully into a new season of growing.”
After the words came out of my mouth I thought more about the statement and realized how often I have done this without realizing it. We definitely keep notes and knowledge on what worked well and didn’t, and why we will continue planting certain varieties over others and what we need to do to successfully grow arugula among a large population of flea beetles. All these things are in our control, and mistakes we make simply because we are human and can forgive ourselves for it and move on. But each year there are things completely out of our control that happen that reduce our ability to grow which in turn has steep effects on our business and naturally effects us emotionally. We need to figure out a way to mitigate the effects of climate and economic changes and then let the emotions and trauma of those things fall off us so we can clearly see forward into doing it all again. Farmers are a crazy sort, but growing food and plants is our life and we have to push forward somehow.
Climate concerns growing for the future of many migratory species.
We travel all over coastal Massachusetts to learn about a few local “indicator species,” which can help explain the impact of climate change. Award-winning documentarian Kim Smith tells us the story of piping plovers breeding in Massachusetts.
I am delighted (and very surprised) to share that Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly has won Best Documentary at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival. I write surprised as there were many beautiful films from around the world participating in the festival, and also because I wasn’t even aware we had been nominated for the award. My sincerest thanks and gratitude to SDIKFF!
Yesterday there were a number of Monarchs out on Eastern Point nectaring at wildflowers and in my garden. It was magical that we learned of the award on the same day as seeing these stragglers. We were celebrating Dia de Muertos here on Plum Street, and on this very same day, November 2nd, Monarchs were spotted arriving at Cerro Pelon and El Rosario Monarch Butterfly sanctuaries. Joel Moreno and his family at Cerro Pelon JM Butterfly BandB spotted the Monarchs traveling high in the sky in the upper thermals while my friend David Hernandez reports that at El Rosario, they are flying low on the mountain.
The wings of the butterfly in the upper photo appear as though they have been snipped by birds while the butterfly’s wings in the second photo are pristine.
Will the stragglers that we see at this time of year be able to travel the roughly 3,000 mile journey all the way to Mexico? I don’t know the answer to that question but we can make a guess that if a butterfly looks weather worn, with torn and tattered wings, it is unlikely that it will be able to complete the journey. On the other hand, some of these late Monarchs that we are seeing look as though they just eclosed (hatched) hours earlier. Their wings are a vibrant orange and black and are completely unscathed. Some butterflies will be funneled between the Appalachian and Great Rockies while others are destined to follow the Atlantic coastline, traveling towards Florida and the Gulf of Mexico states.Safe travels Monarca, wherever you land!
I hope you are able to get out and enjoy this extraordinarily lovely stretch of balmy weather we are having.
This new short, titled Resplendent Monarch Migration, features Monarchs during the late summer southward migration. Also highlighted are some of the more commonly seen butterflies of late summer, including the American Lady, the spectacular Common Buckeye (2:53), Pearl Crescent, Yellow Sulphur, and American Copper. The flora seen includes New England Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, Tall Goldenrod, Smooth Aster (pale lavender), and Common Milkweed. When you plant for the butterflies, they will come!
At 3:30 you can see a small overnight roost beginning to form. As the sun sets, particularly on chilly or windy evenings, Monarchs head for the trees. One by one they fly in, some settling quickly, others restless and shifting to a more preferable spot. By nightfall, all are tucked into the sheltering boughs of the Black Cherry tree. (4:15).
With the warming rays of Sun’s first light, the Monarchs begin to awaken (4:20). If it’s cold and windy they”ll stay a bit longer but typically, the butterflies either float down to the wildflowers in the marsh below, or in the case of this particular roost at Eastern Point, the Monarchs wasted no time and quickly departed. They flew directly south towards Boston by first traveling along the length of the Dogbar Breakwater before heading out to sea (4:30).
It took patience (and a lot of luck) to capture the butterfly heading up into the clouds (5:44). I wanted to share the imagery of the scale of a tiny speck of a creature juxtaposed against the vastness of sea and sky. Imagine, a butterfly that weighs less than a paper clip, journeys 2500 miles to the trans Mexican volcanic mountaintops.
Safe travels oh resilient one!
I have received a number of requests for Monarch footage. I cannot lend the footage from my documentary, Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, currently airing on PBS however, this past summer, I spent time shooting butterflies in my garden, butterflies in pollinator gardens that I have designed for clients, and at our local marshes and meadows. All the footage was shot in beautiful 4k, which is what organizations are requesting.
Compared to year’s past, the 2022 fall southward migration has been a relatively quiet year (so far) for Monarchs traveling through Cape Ann. That is not to say we won’t see another batch or two coming through, but for the most part, we did not have the spectacular roosts that we have seen in some year’s past. We had many travelers flying through during the month of September, but the conditions were favorable and they kept moving along at a steady pace.
I found several roosts in late September. On one evening, the wind was blowing hard from the northwest and the Monarchs were clustered tightly on the east facing side of the tree, to get out of the wind. I didn’t notice the silhouette of Monarch arcs until twilight and counted a dozen or so Monarch arcs.
The golden morning sun revealed several hundred butterflies! It was a joy to see them stirring and fluttering in the dawn light.
Upon awakening, the butterflies didn’t spend any time drinking nectar from the wildflower meadow below as they often do, but headed straight out over the Dogbar Breakwater.
Although Cape Ann has not seen many large roosts this season, two Monarch staging areas, Cape May, New Jersey and Point Pelee, Ontario are both having spectacular migrations!! Monarchs gather at the Point Pelee peninsula before crossing over Lake Erie into Ohio. Likewise, the butterflies stage at Cape May before crossing the Delaware Bay. The butterflies wait for favorable winds to help carry them across bodies of water.
While I began writing this note yesterday morning and was looking out my office window, there were Monarchs drinking nectar from the Zinnias in the front flower border and Monarchs nectaring at the New England Asters around back. The migration is underway, with small assemblages here and there. I’m keeping my hopes up that we will see a greater influx in the coming days. And hopefully, too, the drought has not too badly harmed the Monarchs as there seems to have been enough moisture in the air that native wildflowers such as goldenrods and asters are blooming.
Our sweet little Hip Hop has not been seen for several days (as of this writing), but as Piping Plover Ambassador Deb writes, he has a Houdini-like way of disappearing and reappearing. Hopefully, he has departed. I am not sure if I sent this along to you – Ethan Forman from the GTimes wrote a fantastic article about our GHB Plovers. You can find the story here: Best Year Ever for Plovers at Good Harbor Beach.
I was so happy to read in the Gloucester Times that Mayor Verga’s new beach reservation system is a success, not only for the City, but because an interesting outcome is that I think the reservation system also helped the PiPls. Folks with reservations weren’t desperate to get to the beach by 7am and took their time arriving. The net result was that the wildlife that finds shelter and sustenance on the beach was less disturbed and could forage in relative peace. The new system appears to be a win for all!
In the sixties with mostly sunny skies this weekend. There are many creatures migrating along the coast and through New England currently. I believe I saw a pair of American Golden Plovers but haven’t had time to check my footage to verify 100 percent. I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the predicted beautiful weather and see some wildlife.
Charlotte’s first day of kindergarten with a newly emerged Monarch to send her off – her idea to accessorize 🙂
The zinnia and milkweed patch has been attracting a magical assemblage of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, hover flies, and other insects throughout the summer. Stay tuned for part two coming soon – Monarchs and Friends in Marsh and Meadow!
Plant and they will come!
Monarchs and friends in the mid-summer garden. A host of pollinators finds sustenance in our zinnia and milkweed patch.
Various bees and skippers
You are invited to join Brookline Bird Club director John Nelson at 7-9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24 for a walk around Gloucester’s Eastern Point–the opening event of the Dry Salvages Festival 2022: A Celebration of T. S. Eliot.
We will look for birds around Eliot’s childhood patch, with commentary about Eliot’s bird poems.
The event is free and open to the public.Free parking at the Beauport lot at 75 Eastern Point Blvd. Participation limited. Registration by email is required: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”
The first guideline in becoming an excellent citizen scientist is to do no harm while trying to do good. Considering the spiraling downward numbers of the Monarch Butterfly population, this basic tenet has never rang more true.
A number of friends have written in the past month with questions about captive rearing butterflies and the new listing of the Monarch as an endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and by the state of California. The ruling by the IUCN, which is an organization based in Gland, Switzerland, has no legal bearing on rearing Monarchs however, that is not the case with the California ruling.
The ruling is understandable. There are folks who are rearing Monarchs by the hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands in wholly unsatisfactory conditions, ignoring safe and sanitary protocols.
As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation. I am deeply saddened that it won’t be long before we in the rest of the country will also no longer be able to rear Monarchs, even on the most modest scale.
One of the strongest reasons for not rearing hundreds (or more) Monarchs in close quarters is the spread of the highly contagious parasite OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha).
“Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) is a debilitating protozoan parasite that infects Monarchs. Infected adult Monarchs harbor thousands or millions of microscopic OE spores on the outside of their bodies. When dormant spores are scattered onto eggs or milkweed leaves by infected adults, Monarch caterpillars consume the spores, and these parasites then replicate inside the larvae and pupae. Monarchs with severe OE infections can fail to emerge successfully from their pupal stage, either because they become stuck or they are too weak to fully expand their wings. Monarchs with mild OE infections can appear normal but live shorter lives and cannot fly was well as healthy Monarchs.” From Monarch Joint Venture
Simply put, the very best way to help Monarchs is to create pollinator habitats on whatever scale you can manage. Plant milkweeds native to your region, which provides food for the caterpillars.* Plant native wildflowers such as New England Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, and Joe-pye, which provide sustenance to migrating Monarchs and a host of other pollinators. Plant annuals native to Mexico with simple, uncomplicated structures, such as single (not double) Zinnias,Cosmos, and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia), which will bring the pollinators into the garden and provide sustenance throughout much of the growing season, while the pollinators are on the wing.
Plants such as daylilies, roses, and dahlias are eye candy for humans. Keep your candy to a minimum and know that they are just that, eye candy. They do not help pollinators in any way, shape, or form.
A Monarch in the wild flits from plant to plant and from leaf to leaf when looking for a suitable milkweed plant on which to deposit her eggs. She is carefully inspecting each leaf, first scratching the surface with her feet, the butterfly’s way of sensing taste. The female will typically deposit no more than one egg or possibly two eggs per leaf or bud. When you see an image of a large cluster of Monarch eggs, you can be sure the female was raised in close quarters in captivity and is desperate to deposit her eggs.
Eyeing landscapes that are usually lushly verdant at this time of year, every where we look, wild places and yardscapes are prematurely shriveling and turning brown. This does not bode well for pollinators, especially the butterflies we look forward to seeing in August and September, including Monarchs, Painted and American Ladies, Buckeyes. and Sulphurs. These beauties depend upon wildflowers for daily sustenance and to build their lipid reserves for journeys south.
Six tips to help your garden survive the drought
1. In our garden, we prioritize what needs water most. Pollinator favorite annuals and perennials such as Zinnias, Phlox, Monarda, Joe-pye, and milkweeds provide nectar for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies that are on the wing at this time of year, and they are watered consistently. Perennial wildflowers that Monarchs, the Vanessa butterflies, and Sulphurs rely on in late summer include asters and goldenrods and we give them plentiful water, too. Fruit trees, native flowering dogwoods and shrubs are also given plenty of attention because they take the longest to become established, give shade, and provide sustenance to myriad species of pollinators. Assess your own garden with an eye to prioritizing what you think pollinators are most reliant upon now and over the coming two months.
Plants such as daylilies, iris, lily-of-the-valley, grass, and hosta support nothing, or very few species. They are typically well-rooted and can afford temporary neglect.
2. Water by hand, selectively (see above). Hold the hose nozzle at the base of the plant to soak the soil, not the foliage.
3. Water deeply, and therefore less frequently. Fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs especially appreciate deep watering.
4. Watering after dark saves a tremendous amount of water as a large percentage of water (anywhere from 20 to 30 percent) is lost to evaporation when watering during daylight hours. The best time of day to water is after sunset and before sunrise.
5. Do not fertilize with chemical fertilizers, which promotes an over abundance of growth, which in turn requires more water. Instead, use organic fertilizers and amendments, which will improve the soil’s ability to store and hold water. Fertilize with one of Neptune Harvest’s excellent fish fertilizers, and cover the soil beneath the plants with a two inch layer of Black Earth compost. The soil will be healthier and able to retain moisture more readily.
6. Remove weeds regularly. Weeds suck up valuable moisture. To be clear, by weeds, I don’t mean plants that are misnamed with the suffix weed. So many of our native wildflowers were unfortunately given names that end in weed by the early colonists. For example, Butterfly Weed (Milkweed), Ironweed (Veronia), and Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium), to name but a few. These native wildflowers are some of our very best plants to support native species of Lepidoptera.Canadian Tiger swallowtail drinking nectar – keeping the Zinnias well-watered to help the pollinators
Please join me Thursday, August 18th, at 10am at Essex’s T.O.H.P. Burnham Library for an all ages (5 plus) Monarch Butterfly talk, The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch. To register, please GO HERE I hope to see you there!
Headline after headline shouts: MONARCHS LISTED AS ENDANGERED, MONARCHS CLASSIFIED AS ENDANGERED, MONARCHS ARE NOW AN ENDANGERED SPECIES.
What most articles fail to highlight is that the species was listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Prior to the IUCN adding the Monarch to its Red List, most Americans had never even heard of the IUCN. Although the listing brings no funding to help protect the Monarchs, it can however serve as a call to action.
In 2020, the US Fish and Wildlife Service categorized the Monarch as warranting protection under the Endangered Species Act, but failed to add it to the Endangered Species List. The stated reason was because other species had higher protection priorities. Perhaps, too, an unspoken reason is that it would be very complicated try to prevent habitat loss, and to go toe to toe with companies that manufacture herbicides (Glyphosate),*along with the corporations (Bayer) that manufacture genetically modified crops that can withstand the deadly herbicides. The Monarch’s status will again be reviewed in 2024 and many hope that the IUCN’s declaration will prompt the USFWS to add the Monarch to the federal Endangered Species List.
Climate disruption, habitat loss, and the abuse of herbicides are the greatest threats facing the migrating population of the Monarch Butterfly. Where the population was once counted in the billions only fifty years ago, the numbers have plummeted to mere millions. Although that may sound like a robust number, in actuality, a series of events such as a drought in the northern breeding grounds followed by a deep freeze in the butterfly’s wintering habitat could wipe out the eastern population by as much as 90 percent.
We can all help the Monarchs, individually, and collectively. Creating Monarch habitat is probably one of the most joyful and satisfying first steps. Not only will you be helping the Monarchs, but many other species of pollinators will benefit from planting milkweeds and plants that are rich with nectar.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to be posting pollinator stories, along with gardening advice and tips to help our gardens survive the drought.
Charlotte and newly emerged Monarch August 3, 2022
*Glyphosate, manufactured by Bayer, is an herbicide used in the weed killer Roundup. Roundup is sprayed on vast acreage of farmland in the Midwest on crops that have been genetically modified to withstand the Roundup. Tragically, when the herbicide is sprayed on farm fields, the GMO crops can withstand the deadly toxin, but the milkweeds and other wildflowers growing in and around the farm fields are decimated.
Terrific update to share for Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly – We have been accepted to the San Diego International Kids Film Festival. With Covid on the rise, the presenters don’t know yet if the festival will be live or virtual, but it is fun to imagine attending.
Male Monarch and Coneflower
Truly an amazing number of Monarchs have been spotted across Cape Ann, and New England, in recent weeks. Many are finding eggs and caterpillars in gardens and in meadows. My friends Lillian and Craig, Jane, and Lauren shared their recent sightings. Please write and let me know what you are seeing in your garden. Thank you!
Take in the wonderful fragrance of the flowering Black Locust trees adjacent to the footbridge entrance. The air is redolent with the scent of orange blossoms and honey, along with the Rosa rugosa blooming nearby.
The stand at Good Harbor Beach has been increasing in size and I don’t ever recall the scent quite as potent as it is this year. You can smell the flowers halfway down Nautilus Road!
Black Locust are native to the Appalachian Mountains. The leaves are a host to over 67 species of Lepidoptera, including Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Giant Leopard Moth, and the Elm Sphinx Moth. A host plant is a caterpillar food plant. And they offer nectar to pollinators, including Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
There are a surprising number of butterflies this year at Cape Hedge Beach. Several days ago an American Lady was warming on the popples and today, a female Black Swallowtail.
An easy way to see the difference between an American Lady Butterfly and a Painted Lady Butterfly
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) ~ Note the two large eyespots on the underside of the hindwing, close to the outer margin.The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) has four smaller eyespots on the underside of the hindwing.
This past week after enjoying a delicious lunch of clam chowder and fried clams at Woodman’s, Charlotte, my friend Claudia, and I stopped by Greenbelt’s Cox Reservation en route home. Claudia moved to CapeAnn a year ago and had never been. She was delighted to know about Cox Reservation for future beauty walks through meadow and marsh and of course Charlotte had a fantastic time as she always does when running about in nature. While there, we spied a Monarch depositing eggs on Common Milkweed shoots emerging in the grassland meadow.
I returned the following day to see if the female Monarch was still afield and to try also to capture an audio recording of the music where ‘seaside marsh meets grassland meadow.’
I found so much more. A photo tour for your Memorial Day weekend –
Bobolinks in the Chokecherry Tree (Prunus virginiana)
There are several fields at Cox Reservation that are maintained grassland habitat to help nesting birds such as Bobolinks; a beautiful songbird in steep decline.
We’re accustomed to hearing and seeing male Red-winged Blackbirds; it’s not often we see the females as they are usually on the nest. This pretty female flew into a tree, waved her wings, and stuck out her very showy cloaca. I wasn’t sure what she was up to and when a male came from nowhere and suddenly jumped on her back to mate, I was startled and unfortunately jerked the camera, but you get the idea.
Female Red-winged Blackbird
Male and Female Eastern Bluebirds feeding their brood
Osprey pair nesting in the far distant marsh
With deep appreciation and thanks to Essex County Greenbelt Association’s Director of Land Stewardship Dave Rimmer for his continued help with Cape Ann’s Piping Plovers. Dave has been providing free of charge guidance, along with exclosing the Plover nests, since 2016.
Please share your Monarch sightings. We would love to hear from you <3
This Mama Monarch photographed yesterday was zeroing in and depositing eggs on the freshly emerging shoots of Common Milkweed sprouting in the grassland meadows at Cox Reservation.
On May 21st the first Monarch was spotted; this is the earliest many of us have seen Monarchs in our gardens, dunes, and meadows. MJ observed one on the 21st in Lanesville, Patti in East Gloucester on the 23rd (she has tons of milkweed), Duncan spotted one at Brier Neck, they are in the dunes at Good Harbor Beach in the Common Milkweed patches, in my garden (also lots of milkweed), and have been seen at several Greenbelt sanctuaries, both Castle Neck River Reservation and Cox Reservation.
The butterflies at Cox Reservation were drinking nectar from the Red Clover
The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch – share with kids!
Please join us Wednesday, June 22nd at 7pm for a free in-person screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly at the Salem Visitor Center, as part of Essex National Heritage Pollinator week-long series of events.
Super fun news to share and please save the date – Essex National Heritage is hosting a week of events for National Pollinator Week, which takes place June 20th through June 26th. We have been invited to present a LIVE screening and Q and A of Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly on June 22, from 7pm to 9pm at the Salem Visitor Center.
The Salem Armory Visitor Center is located at 2 New Liberty Street, Salem, MA.
And more happy news to share – Beauty on the Wing is nominated for an award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival!
Common Milkweed emerging in May, Good Harbor Beach
And lastly, we saw our first Monarchs this week, one at Good Harbor Beach flitting through the dunes and a second at Cox Reservation. There is plentiful Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) emerging at our local dunes and meadows! <3
Cedar Rock Gardens is carrying both Asclepias (milkweed) and Eupatorium (Joe-pye). Both of these wildflowers are two of the best plants for supporting native pollinators and creating a wildlife friendly garden.