Fayetteville is making good on a pledge Mayor Lioneld Jordan took last November as part of a national movement to make local areas more friendly to the endangered monarch butterfly.
The iconic butterfly is on the verge of becoming quasi-extinct, according to a study published last month in the journal Scientific Reports.
The North American monarch population is down by more than 90 percent from 1996 because of agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion that have led to a decline in the monarch’s summer breeding habitat in the U.S. and its winter habitat in Mexico.
The largest threat comes from a significant loss of a certain type of milkweed that monarchs rely on for survival. It’s the only host plant for monarch caterpillars, but its numbers have declined in the U.S. due to overuse of herbicides by commercial agriculture and conventional gardening practices in suburban and urban areas.
As part of the “Mayors’ Monarch Pledge,” a movement started by the National Wildlife Federation, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department grew milkweed plants this spring for all of the Fayetteville Public Schools gardens. Each school will receive three native milkweed plants to grow on their school grounds to increase habitat for monarch butterflies and serve as a teaching tool for students. To attract pollinators, native perennial and annual plants were also donated to the school gardens.
Mayor Jordan last week visited Vandergriff Elementary School to meet with student gardeners and tour the school gardens and greenhouse where the donated milkweed will be grown.
Tina Buxton, a horticulturalist with the Parks and Recreation Department, said the department is also growing milkweed to give away to citizens at an upcoming Farmers’ Market booth in late May.
For more information on the program, visit fayetteville-ar.gov, or call Buxton at 479-287-0291.