Sunday, October 13, 2013

Milkweed Ethics

The last few days I've been dividing and planting out milkweed seedlings that I winter sowed last year; they've grown into healthy young plants this whole summer. I was able to get about a half dozen common milkweed, and maybe a dozen swamp milkweed.

Asclepias incarnata has great fall color!
Every day I read an article about the 80% drop in numbers of last winter's monarch population in Mexico, and then a 90% drop in the North America summer population this year. You've got logging in Mexico, spraying glyphosate in agricultural fields of the Plains and Midwest, roads and cities, less wild flowers to nectar on, less milkweed to lay eggs on. This is a species potentially on the brink in most of the U.S. and Canada, but it's one of many thousands more we don't see as commonly, that isn't as big and bright or as enchanting for most folks to watch as it flits through the air.

We are a nation of 40 million gardeners -- we have immense power to do the right thing, and there is a right thing to be done. Plant milkweed. Not one. Not two. But a dozen right out your door. Rip up more lawn and put in a native flower bed rich with nectar. Toss in more milkweed there. We are directly causing climate change, we are directly eroding habitat through ag subsidies and suburban sprawl and mining and tar sands and marsh draining. Those are huge, sprawling issues we can't tackle alone -- but with collective small acts we can erode the physical and psychological damage. Every milkweed planted is a blow against our worst selves.

We are eradicating a species' home -- it's not the monarch's, it's ours. And the root of the entire issue is that we see ourselves disconnected from life. We are self centered, whether as a product of our evolution or our culture or both. It's not a completely bad thing to be self serving and aware. A lot of you reading this blog garden -- you know what happens when you sit in the garden and watch a bee or butterfly or bird for 10, 20, 30 minutes. You know we aren't disconnected. Maybe that's transcendence, maybe it's pure love, maybe it's just being human and embracing wonder on a 1 to 1 level.

Plant a milkweed and rewrite our ethical codes. Garden as selflessly as, in the most ideal times, you live selflessly for others you love. Garden for yourself. Garden inward. Garden for your own pleasure. Garden to bring in butterflies. Garden for milkweed. Garden for all that is seen and unseen. Garden for hope and faith in the planet that birthed us and allowed us to have these quandaries of crisis, doubt, and change. Plant a milkweed.


Unknown said...

Hooray for you! Our garden is a Monarch Waystation, and I haven't seen even one monarch yet this year. It breaks my heart. Still, we keep planting the milkweed and expanding our beds with nectar pants in the hope that they will return. I hope all gardeners reading your post will plant some milkweed.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Gotta do what we can, and hopefully it spreads to the point where we do what we must do. :)

xericstyle said...

I promise!

Anonymous said...

we're maintaining our Monarch way station, as we have for the past ten years, with nectar plants and Milkweed, and we only saw one this past year- no Swallowtails this year and very few other butterfies, few Variegated Fritilaries, it seems to be a species wide issue. On a good note, we saw more honeybees than we have in the past decade.

Alice said...

I planted five last year and plan to divide them and plant many more this fall! Thank you for putting into words what I feel.

M.J said...

after i read this i really knew a bit more about it , starting to plant it this year