Native Butterfly-Friendly Gardens in the Conejo Take Flight

by / 12 Comments / 1331 View / November 30, 2015

milkweed

Sycamore Canyon students worked hard to create these wonderful native organic milkweed packets with custom artwork for sale to the public.

Butterflies are an important part of the food chain and are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems. Unfortunately, Monarch butterfly populations have been on the decline. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed, the only host plant for this iconic butterfly species. As such, milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs. Without it, they cannot complete their life cycle and their populations decline.  Eradication of milkweed both in agricultural areas as well as in urban and suburban landscapes is one of the primary reasons that monarchs are in trouble today.

Butterfly-Friendly Gardens in Thousand Oaks
The City promotes the propagation of Monarch butterflies in several areas in our community. There are a number of plants at the City’s Municipal Service Center in Newbury Park that are host plants for Monarch and Gulf Fritillary butterflies. Near the bottom of the bridge between City Hall and The Lakes parking lot, there is a large patch of native milkweed with a sign within the patch of milkweed that identifies it as “Monarch Butterfly Native Habitat”. The park area on the east side of City Hall also featuers a water conservation garden with butterfly-friendly plants including one called “Butterfly Bush”.

The City is currently working with the Audubon Society to install a native garden at Heritage Park on Thousand Oaks Boulevard that will focus on plants beneficial to birds and butterflies. There is a large native garden called “The True Colors Garden and Learning Center” in front of the Goebel Senior Adult Center in Thousand Oaks. The garden was planted and is cared for by Master Gardeners that contains butterfly friendly plants including Lavender, Lupins and Alyssum.

Using funds donated by the City’s Community Enhancement Grant program, ArtTrek in Newbury Park planted drought tolerant plants, including milkweed, in front of the studio.  Art Trek teachers recently observed the caterpillar-to-butterfly phenomenon taking place and were able to utilize this live transformation to educate the students. A chrysalis was spotted hanging from the leaf of a potted plant outside the studio, while both a caterpillar and a Monarch butterfly were seen on other nearby milkweed branches.

butterfly

A caterpillar and a chrysalis were spotted in front of Art Trek in Newbury Park. The students there were delighted to observe a thin metallic gold band around the circumference of the chrysalis.

Finally, Sycamore Canyon School has a Monarch Watch registered and a certified official Monarch Waystation. The garden is officially a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, which makes them a partner in their Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. The butterflies here thrive on the milkweed throughout the garden. The garden was created to fulfill several educational objectives. Besides learning about the butterfly and milkweed cycle fulfilling the nature and science curriculum, Mrs. Smith’s 6th Grade class has native narrow leaf Milkweed seeds available for sale to the public, and proceeds go toward the school garden. Through the butterfly seeds, the class also learns about fundraising and various aspects of business, including marketing and distribution. The locally sourced seeds sold by the class contain no pesticides, which is crucial for butterfly health. This narrow leaf native seed variety is difficult to find at local stores. The packages include 10 seeds for $1, and the packets contain custom artwork by students Elizabeth Herman and Emily O’Day.

How to Grow a Butterfly Garden
The best time to plant milkweed is in the fall, after a good rain. The seeds should be planted in full sun. It is advised by the National Wildlife Federation to not plant the non-native “Tropical Milkweed” variety. Click this link for more information. To find out more about why planting the wrong milkweed variety may be counterproductive to helping the butterflies proliferate, as well as how to purchase the narrow leaf milkweed from Mrs. Smith’s class, click here.

For more resources about incorporating milkweed and other butterfly-friendly plants into your home garden, see the links below.

Sycamore Canyon School blog: Helping the Monarch Butterflies Here in Conejo Valley
https://scsgardenproject.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/monarch-butterflies-needs-our-help/

National Wildlife Federation – Butterfly General Information
http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Library/Invertebrates/Monarch-Butterfly.aspx

National Wildlife Federation – Build a Butterfly Habitat
http://www.nwf.org/Pollinators/Monarch.aspx
Milkweed information and resources: http://www.nwf.org/Pollinators/Monarch/Milkweed-Resources.aspx

Getting Kids involved in building a butterfly habitat:
http://www.nwf.org/Butterfly-Heroes/Getting-Started.aspx
http://www.nwf.org/Butterfly-Heroes/Getting-Started/Learning-to-Garden.aspx

12 Comment

  1. Where can we purchase native milkweed? I have many plants they like but don’t have any milkweed.

  2. The link to purchase native narrow leaf milkweed seeds from the 6th grade class at Sycamore Canyon School is in the blog post. Here is the direct link to purchase: https://scsgardenproject.wordpress.com/contact-us/
    More info on the milkweed seeds and Monarch butterflies is at this link: https://scsgardenproject.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/monarch-butterflies-needs-our-help/

  3. How can anybody grow anything with watering allowed only once a week in my area.

  4. Ed, correct, through March, all Thousand Oaks residents may only water once per week, for 15 minutes per station. A drip irrigation system saves the most water and waters plants most effectively. In addition, milkweed is a drought tolerant plant, and thus requires less water than other plants which are not.

  5. Where can I get directions and address of the butterfly garden ? I am very very new to the community. Thank You

  6. Deb, which garden are you referring to in the article? The article stated the locations of the butterfly friendly gardens.

  7. Hi! I have some milkweed (the correct kind), but boy they ate up all the plant leaves and it is now bare…will they starve now?

  8. We would need to more information, Elizabeth. Do you think it is monarch caterpillars eating up all the leaves or something else? We also sent you an email. You can click this link to send inquiries about monarch butterflies.
    https://scsgardenproject.wordpress.com/contact-us/

  9. Well put, Dan. That makes me feel even better about my first three years of hunintg, and last year, too. I had four successful years in between and…

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  11. “The City is currently working with the Audubon Society to install a native garden at Heritage Park on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.”

    Where is “Heritage Park”? I went so far as to enter “Heritage Park” in the search field on the City of TO web site and the search came up empty. Is there another way to identify this location?

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