The Native Plant Society of Texas is hosting the Welcome the Monarchs Field Day at the Hill County northbound rest area on Oct. 13. Courtesy of MonarchJointVenture.org.
Sept. 12, 2016
Next month, the Native Plant Society of Texas will plant its first two monarch butterfly waystations on Interstate 35 at rest areas in Hill County just south of Hillsboro. The pair of waystations will be followed by two more planned by NPSOT along the interstate. Monarch waystations are garden patches that replicates wildflower areas frequented by the butterflies in the wild. They’re designed for migrating monarchs who travel through Texas along Interstate 35 on their way to and from overwintering grounds in Mexico.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation employees plant milkweed at the Monarch Waystation garden at the Oklahoma City Welcome Center on I-35 and 122nd St. in Oklahoma City. Courtesy of OklahomaConservation.org.
At the “Welcome the Monarchs” event on Oct. 13, visitors are invited to pick up a shovel and help plant the home-grown nectar plants and milkweeds for monarch caterpillars. Plants are expected to be leafed out and blooming to feed the monarchs by next spring. Visitors can also explore monarch information at staffed booths and view the existing interpretive exhibits at the visitor center. It showcases Chisholm Trail history and replicates traditional agricultural structures and an aqueduct in its design.
The event is phase one of Texas' I-35 Rest Area Monarch Waystation project, funded by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and conducted in cooperation with the Native Plant Society and Texas Department of Transportation. It's part of the multistate Monarch Highway Project, created to increase monarch habitat and foster public awareness and participation along I-35 through Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the central flyway of the monarch migration.
The goal of the Texas waystation project, announced in May, is to help save the butterflies. USFWS and partner groups want to restore declining populations of migrating monarchs in North America. Their decreases in their population over the past 20 years “is mainly attributed to loss of habitat and native milkweed plants due to urban development, shifts in agricultural practices, land management activities, use of insecticides, severe weather…” and degradation of their winter habitats in Mexico, USFWS explained in its project announcement.
In Texas, I-35 follows the central spring migration route of monarch butterflies, as they make their multi-generation trip south from Canada to Mexico in the fall and return north in spring. The east-side Hillsboro waystation is partner to a matching planting on the west, southbound, side of I-35. The two Hill County waystations will be 2,000 square feet each. In addition, in November the two Bell County waystations will be planted near Salado, measuring 1,000 square feet each. They'll be established in existing landscape beds near the visitor centers. Dallas landscape architect and NPSOT member Carol Feldman designed the site plans for all.
Courtesy of MonarchJointVenture.org.
Kay Jenkins, the Tyler resident who chairs NPSOT’s waystation committee, is up to her elbows finalizing the planting plan for next month’s opening.
“The Society is committed to maintain the waystations for five years. The original idea was, take a year for planning and then plant in Year Two. But members decided that our Native Plant Society Fall Symposium on Oct. 14 and 15 in Glen Rose is a great opportunity to involve members in the waystations.”
So the schedule was accelerated.
Organizers hope that attendees traveling from NPSOT’s 34 chapters statewide will be enticed by the lure of hands-on gardening before they settle in to conference sessions.
“Conference participants can help plant Thursday on their way to the conference and Sunday on the way back,” says Jenkins.
With the NPSOT chapter closest to the waystations being in Glen Rose-Granbury, and the four other North Texas groups further afield in Weatherford, Fort Worth, Denton and Dallas, Jenkins is offering opportunities for other butterfly lovers to tend the waystations, as well.
Native milkweed. Courtesy of Monarch Watch.
Four species of milkweeds and many other spring and fall nectar-producing plants are on the plant list. Many are being donated by NPSOT members, others by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Some will be purchased from native plant nurseries. The Hill County master list contains more than 50 varieties of plants, the majority identified by USDA as native specifically to that county. The first planting will be of listed varieties available at planting time.
“There’s no guarantee [that] the seed the plants came from was grown in that county,” says Jenkins, “but we are buying plants from in-state vendors who source seeds in Texas.”
The selected plants attract more than 30 species of butterflies in addition to monarchs.
Garden making and tending is not a one-time opportunity. Volunteers are needed not only for the field days but for preparing seedlings and beds, planting and maintenance. They can help on weekends and/or weekdays for bed preparation and planting September through November. Special workdays can be arranged for Scouts, 4-H Clubs and students to participate in planting the waystations and learning about monarch butterflies by contacting Kay Jenkins at Kay.Jenkins@NPSOT.org.
NPSOT's Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas grant program funds aspiring butterfly gardeners who have a patch of land with public access. The four-year-old venture is chaired by Cathy Downs, who can be reached at MZDowns@HCTC.net. The grant application form is online. Applications are due by Feb. 15 and grants awarded on March 1 of each year. Grants range from $50 to $450, funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and awarded to grant applicants through NPSOT.
Welcome the Monarchs Field Day
When: Oct. 13. Planting will start at 8 am. Outreach activities and exhibits will be open from 1-5 p.m.
Where: Northbound Hill County Safety Rest Area on Interstate 35.
FROM NORTH OF HILL COUNTY: From DFW, take Interstate 35 south and exit at Exit 356 and cross under the freeway and get back on Interstate 35 north and take the 362A exit to the Hill County Safety Rest Area.
FROM SOUTH OF HILL COUNTY: From Waco and other areas south, take Interstate 35 north and exit at 362A to the Hill County Safety Rest Area.
Additional Planting Day
When: Oct. 16, 9 a.m.
Where: Southbound Hill County Safety Rest Area
FROM NORTH OF HILL COUNTY: From Dallas and other areas north of Hill County, take Interstate 35 south and exit at Exit 362A
FROM SOUTH OF HILL COUNTY: From Waco and other areas south of Hill County, take Interstate 35 north and exit at Exit 364A and cross under the freeway and get back on Interstate 35 south and exit at Exist 362A.