Gardening Matters

A while back I wrote in this column about the plight of the Monarch butterflies.

The plight is that they face a serious decline and a rather dubious future.

Monarchs depend on native milkweed plants alone as their sole source of food for their offspring caterpillars. Unfortunately expansion of agriculture into previously fallow fields has killed off many of the milkweed plants across the U.S.

Further, the massive use of herbicide chemicals has further reduced the availability of milkweed growing around farms, campuses, business parks, shopping malls, sports fields and institutions of all sorts. Current data shows that there has been a 96 percent decline in Monarch butterflies since the early 1990s.

Why is this important?

Monarchs are a major pollinator of plants. Our entire agricultural process depends on bees (already suffering their own decline), butterflies and other insects to pollinate our crops so they can bear seed or fruit and reproduce. Without pollinators, there simply is no food for us and for animals. Our entire food chain is threatened by the loss of pollinators.

That’s the simple version.

Responding to the issues facing the Monarchs, the DNC has recently announced a major program called the Milkweed Project to help make families and children more aware of the plight of the Monarchs and what is happening to our milkweed plants. The Nature Center will be working with the Dunwoody area elementary schools to help carry out educational projects with the students and teachers. This Milkweed Project also includes action items to develop the grounds of the Nature Center as a way station for migrating Monarchs and to further foster similar projects in our schools and garden organizations.

They have also reached out to local businesses to support this work. The United Parcel Service Foundation has committed $11,700 to purchase milkweed plants and educational materials. Post Properties has donated hundreds of milkweed plants and has pledged to plant milkweed plants at 47 of their properties in Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Our own Dunwoody Garden Club is contributing $1000 to support the way station part of the project. And the city of Dunwoody has demonstrated their support via a city resolution in support of DNC’s Milkweed Project.

Part of what I personally like about the Milkweed Project is that it is one of those causes that is hard to argue with and is easy for adults, kids and groups to do something about. I mean, who doesn’t like Monarch butterflies? Even more, who doesn’t like the food chain that we are at the top of? I hope that we will see further community based support for the Milkweed Project from HOAs, churches and synagogues, community organizations, scouts and other groups. Interested people can contact the Dunwoody Nature Center if they want to learn more or to offer support for the Milkweed Project.

The Dunwoody Nature Center’s spring plant sale has now closed. Plants will be ready for pick up this Friday, May 1 from 3-5 p.m. and on Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m.- noon. As always we hope you enjoy your purchases and thank you most warmly for your support.

As part of the Milkweed Project efforts, we will be giving a free milkweed plant to all purchasers when they pick up their plants.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at

(1) comment


It’s not possible for monarch butterfly enthusiasts to increase the wild monarch population. Why? Because 
approximately 3 billion milkweed plants still grow in the wild and support the existing population of 100 million fall migrant monarch butterflies. So that means roughly 30 plants produce 1 fall migrant butterfly. So even if enthusiasts planted 100,000 more milkweeds during the next 5 years, only about 3,333 more butterflies would be produced - not even 1/100th of one percent more than already exist!

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