Monarch Waystation

May 2019

park ranger in uniformBed of various wildflowersBy Ranger Lauren

The horsemint, Texas star, antelope-horns, firewheels and mealy blue sage are all blooming in the pool garden. This is my favorite garden in the park and my favorite time of year for this garden. I love the tall stalks of blue, purple and yellow flowers swaying in the breeze, and I love the myriad of other colors – in flowers, bugs and butterflies – that can be found with a closer look. But this garden is more than just a pretty piece of land­scaping to beautify our park pool. It’s a certified Monarch Waystation.

Providing for monarchs

What is a Monarch Waystation? Monarch Waystations are but­ter­fly gardens that provide the plants needed for monarchs to eat, repro­duce and migrate. Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to moun­tains in central Mexico where they wait out the winter until flying back in the spring.

The monarch migration is one of the world's greatest natural wonders, but it is threatened by habitat loss at the overwintering grounds in Mexico and throughout breeding areas in the United States and Canada. Development in the U.S. alone is consuming habitats for monarchs and other wildlife at a rate of 9.4 square miles a day!

Setting up a Monarch Waystation

Three types of wildflowersCreating a Monarch Waystation is one of the ways we’re trying to help conserve this species and other butterflies. Monarch Waystations typically have the following features:

Milkweed plants

Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed plants, so these beauties are es­sen­tial to any monarch-friendly garden. We planted antelope-horn milkweed, whorled milkweed and butterfly weed in our garden.

Nectar plants

Monarchs, other butterflies, and numerous pollinators drink nectar for food. So, a good Monarch Way­station should contain several native plants that provide nectar for butterflies (ideally with plants that bloom throughout the season). We planted horsemint, zexmenia, dotted gayfeather, prairie bundle flower, Texas star, Texas sage, mealy blue sage, and more!

Shelter

All butterflies and caterpillars need shelter from predators and the elements, and planting milkweed and nectar plants close together contributes to this shelter. We also added some native grasses (spe­cif­i­cally little bluestem and sideoats grama). I love how this aspect gives our garden such a cohesive and natural look!

You can help

Creating a Monarch Waystation can be as simple as adding milkweeds and nectar sources to an existing garden or main­taining natural hab­i­tats with milkweeds. You could make these changes at your own home or community. No effort is too small to have a positive impact!

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Alice Mabry for all your hard work in designing, planting and maintaining this garden, and thank you also to the Lost Pines Master Naturalists for help with installation. Lastly, thank you to every­one who donated plants to this project, in­cluding Alice Mabry, Allen Guisinger, Jim Estes and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.