Milkweed plant giveaway planned at Saturday Farmers’ Market

Horticulturists with the city’s parks and recreation department will give away 800 milkweed plants on the downtown square during the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 5.

The giveaway is part of the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, a movement started by the National Wildlife Federation to make local areas more friendly to endangered monarch butterflies, which rely on the plant for survival.

A 2016 study found that the iconic butterfly is on the verge of becoming quasi-extinct.

The findings, from the journal Scientific Reports, showed the North American monarch population was 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 swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). which is the only host plant for monarch caterpillars. 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.

An information sheet will be available with the free plants on Saturday.

For more information about milkweed and monarch butterflies, visit the National Wildlife Foundation website.