SWEDESBORO, N.J. — South Jersey Land and Water Trust (SJLW) organized a group of volunteers who planted over three-hundred milkweed plants in a meadow at Oldmans Creek Preserve this past July to help lift the numbers of Monarch butterflies that have been decreasing.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund the numbers of Monarch Butterflies have plummeted 90% over the last two decades.
“Planting milkweed is a great way to help monarchs rebound,” Philip Arsenault, SJLW’s Environmental Steward and lead of the project, said in a statement. “It gives them a place to lay their eggs and provides the caterpillars with a source of food. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat.”
Unfortunately, Arsenault said, populations of the plant itself have dropped, and along with them the monarch populations.
That’s why scores of volunteers helped plant the butterfly staple so visitors to the preserve can soon view butterfly filled meadows.
“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” Arsenault said. “We’ve partnered with Xylem before, and they’re really hard-working and passionate people.”
SJLW also credits the success of the project to Suzan Preiksat, who grew and donated all the milkweed plants used in the installation. “She’s a champion of monarch butterflies,” Arsenault said. “She’s been growing and donating milkweed plants for years because she knows how important the plant is for monarchs.”
In addition to creating monarch habitat, the installation also creates a beautiful space for visitors to enjoy, according to Arsenault.
“We planted the milkweed right at the front of the preserve, by the fire pit,” Arsenault said “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.”
This isn’t the first time the SJLWT has planted milkweed. “We’ve also planted milkweed in the buffer plantings and rain gardens we’ve installed around South Jersey,” Arsenault said.
It is SJLWT’s hope that once visitors to the preserve see how these beautiful plants attract monarch butterflies, they will be motivated to plant milkweed in their own yards, “Adding milkweed to your yard is beneficial for both you and the butterflies,” Arsenault 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.”
SJLWT plans to install more of the critical plant species around the state in the future. “We’re always looking for new opportunities and spaces to plant milkweed — in our preserves, along local streams, in school gardens, you name it,” Arsenault said. “We want South Jersey to be full of monarchs.”
For more information about the South Jersey Land and Water Trust or to volunteer for the next planting project, visit their website at https://sjlandwater.org/.