Recently, I learned about a group of eighth-grade students in New Jersey who wanted to give away Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) seeds to people in their community. They found out I also was giving away Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seeds so they contacted me.
These ambitious students wanted to do something which would make a lasting impact in their town. They discussed how much they liked being outdoors and believed that because of the pandemic they wanted to do something to encourage others to go outside to appreciate nature more. Learning about a USDA project encouraging farmers to plant Milkweed, they felt a need to help Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies by planting Milkweed, the only plant Monarch butterflies lay eggs on. So the group decided to encourage people in their community to plant Milkweed.
The students created a Facebook page called NJ Monarchs and posted a link to an online survey to find people who would be interested in planting Milkweed in their gardens. The response for the free seeds far exceeded their expectations. They’ve received 1,000 requests for Milkweed seeds, so far. They have been working hard making seed packets and mailing them out to people who requested the seeds.
These dedicated students are encouraging their neighbors, churches, and local businesses to certify their property as National Wildlife Habitats. They collaborated with a local church, which recently was certified, and scattered seeds on the side of the church, which will provide plants for pollinators, next spring.
These motivated youngsters now are working on another project with a local wildlife photographer to create an educational packet for younger students.
My hat goes off to these young people and their efforts to help Monarch butterflies!