Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Maybe natives ARE better after all
While I prefer to plant California natives in my garden, I do, at times, wonder whether I'm getting carried away. Take Asclepias, the butterfly weed that is a primary food source for the Monarch butterfly. What could be wrong with planting a non-native butterfly weed? After all, the most favorite hangout of the monarchs along the California coast are the Eucalyptus trees.
Still, I enjoy the rare beauty of Asclepias speciosa, a native butterfly weed. I love the flowers, and enjoy the seed pods. I even did a post only about this plant here.
So imagine my surprise when I saw an article in the New York Times Science Tuesday section last week that came down fairly hard on the side of the natives. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/science/monarchs-may-be-loved-to-death.html talks about research being done that compares monarchs that feed on native milkweeds with monarchs that feed on a non-native species that is popular in the trade and therefore with gardeners.
...But the most widely available milkweed for planting, the scientists say, is an exotic species called tropical milkweed — not the native species with which the butterflies evolved. That may lead to unseasonal breeding, putting monarchs at higher risk of disease and reproductive failure.
See the article for the details. Research is still ongoing, but I'm feeling much happier about my milkweed going dormant in fall, with no danger of tempting any butterfly at the wrong time of year.