Building a Waystation for Monarchs

by Sandy Fejt
Willowbrook Wildlife Center

Willowbrook Wildlife Center modified its butterfly garden along the exhibit trail to contain a large concentration of milkweed plants over the summer 2010. Center naturalist Kevin Luby and I redesigned the garden to apply for its designation as a monarch waystation.

Several requirements for the designation require the participant to provide nectar-producing plants — both perennials and annuals — as well as shelter for the butterflies and sustainable management. Willowbrook planted multiple flats of milkweed plants in a variety of species and scattered common milkweed seeds not only in the garden but also at the bottom of the hill in the back trail area. The milkweed (Asclepias) checklist included: butterfly (tuberosa), common (syriaca), Sullivant’s (sullivantii), swamp (incarnata) and whorled (verticillata).

The application for the waystation certification was completed and submitted in April 2012. The application for designation was approved and our sign was shipped. Both the outdoor exhibit butterfly garden and the Back 40 trail are now certified official Monarch Waystations.

Willowbrook’s naturalists continue to collect and disburse seeds throughout the surrounding forest preserve. We’ve even bagged some of the seeds for our visitors to provide them an opportunity to plant milkweed at home.

Learn more about our Districtwide Know Milkweeds, Know Monarchs initiative. Then, purchase plants to get your own butterfly-friendly garden growing at our Native Plant Sale on Friday, May 8 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mayslake Peabody Estate
Willowbrook planted a large concentration of native milkweeds in its butterfly garden to support the monarch butterfly. 
Milkweed serves as a nectar source not only for butterflies but also for other insects.
The plants in the garden support many butterflies, like the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.
A monarch butterfly nectars on milkweed in the garden. A variety of other native perennial plants provide a food source from spring through fall. 
Many butterflies — like the pipevine swallowtail — visit the species-enriched garden. 
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