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Bringing Back the Butterflies

Our volunteers planted over 300 milkweed plants at the Oldmans Creek Preserve to create critical habitat for monarch butterflies this summer

Plant milkweed in a field and it will quickly be filled with the fluttering orange wings of monarch butterflies. Monarchs, which are facing declining populations all over the country, need milkweed to survive. At the Oldmans Creek Preserve in Auburn, New Jersey, volunteers with the SJLWT did their part to help these beautiful butterflies by planting milkweed on the property, and lots of it. 

The Milkweed Planting Project

Our volunteers planted over three-hundred milkweed plants in the meadow of the preserve this July. Why milkweed? “Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat,” Philip Arsenault, our Environmental Steward, and lead of the project, says, “Unfortunately, populations of the plant itself have dropped, and along with them the monarch populations.” 

He’s right about that. Over the past twenty years, monarch populations have dropped by a staggering 90 percent. There are ways, however, to help bring back this critical species. One of the easiest? Plant milkweed. “Planting milkweed is a great way to help monarchs rebound. It gives them a place to lay their eggs and provides the caterpillars with a source of food so they can grow and become butterflies,” Phil notes, “Fortunately, the Oldmans Creek Preserve has a large meadow that was the perfect location for a milkweed installation.” 

A Space for Visitors to Enjoy

In addition to creating monarch habitat, Phil says the installation will also create a beautiful space for visitors to enjoy, “We planted the milkweed right at the front of the preserve, by the fire pit,” Phil says, “Monarchs can already be spotted around the preserve where we’ve planted milkweed in prior years, but with this larger installation, the meadow will soon be filled with them. It should be quite a sight.” 

Visitors of the Oldmans Creek Preserve can thank the many volunteers for the soon-to-be butterfly-filled meadow. “There’s no way we could have gotten all those plants in the ground without the help of our volunteers, most of whom were employees with Xylem Pump and Rental Sales” Phil says, “We’ve partnered with Xylem before, and they’re really hard-working and passionate people.” They also couldn’t have completed the project without the help of Suzan Preiksat, who grew and donated all the milkweed plants used in the installation. “She’s a champion of monarch butterflies,” Phil notes, “She’s been growing and donating milkweed plants for years because she knows how important the plant is for monarchs.” 

Planting Your Own Milkweed

It’s our hope that, upon seeing how these beautiful plants attract monarch butterflies to the preserve, others will be motivated to plant milkweed in their own yards, “Adding milkweed to your yard is beneficial for both you and the butterflies,” Phil notes, “The flower is pink and pretty. It brings butterflies to your garden and beautifies it. But more importantly, by planting milkweed, you’re helping this struggling butterfly species to survive.” 

This isn’t the first time the SJLWT has planted milkweed, and it won’t be the last. Milkweed grows around the pond at the preserve as well as around the historic house that serves as our office. But that’s not all. “We’ve also planted milkweed in the buffer plantings and rain gardens we’ve installed around South Jersey,” Phil says. 

Let's Fill New Jersey with Butterflies

We intend to continue to install more of this critical plant species around the state in the future. Phil notes, “We’re always looking for new opportunities and spaces to plant milkweed — in our preserves, along local streams, in school gardens, you name it. We want South Jersey to be full of monarchs.”

Want to help us with our next planting project? Become a volunteer!

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