Mills, PA 16875
Contact: Rose Franklin
Rose Franklin’s Perennials is
an online nursery specializing in growing plants which attract
hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden. Their web site,
www.ButterflyBushes.com, offers access to lots of information on
hummingbird- and butterfly-gardening. The company also offers Monarch
eggs, caterpillars, and pupae to individuals, schools, and organizations
for summertime rearing projects. Occasionally, the firm provides live
butterflies for weddings, parties, open houses, and memorial services.
While Rose makes most of the business decisions (what plants to grow,
etc.), her husband, Andrew Smith, is of vital importance in the operation.
Andy tends to all the details, making sure shipping supplies are
restocked, butterflies are well cared for, etc. Rose's mom, sister,
sister-in-law, niece, and several neighbors also assist with day-to-day
tasks of transplanting plants, watering, and packing orders.
Rose lives in Spring Mills,
Centre County, PA, with her husband, Andrew Smith. For the past twenty
years, Rose and Andy have spent their leisure time gardening for
butterflies, photographing butterflies, raising butterflies, and writing
about butterflies. In August, 2012, Rose published a book entitled Fast
Track Butterfly Gardening, which is now available on Amazon.com. Her
work days are spent in her retail plant nursery where she grows and sells
plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
As is often the case, Rose’s interest in butterflies was ignited
as the result of a tragic mishap. In 1992, the year she launched her
nursery business, she killed dozens of white, black, and yellow-striped
worm-like critters because they were devouring one of her crops,
Bloodflower (also known as Tropical Milkweed).
That winter she visited Pattee Library on Penn State’s main campus and learned she had killed dozens of caterpillars that would have soon become majestic Monarch butterflies. She also found out that Monarch butterflies are relatively easy to raise. Now feeling guilty about having killed dozens of Monarch caterpillars, she vowed to rear enough Monarchs the next summer to replace what she had robbed from nature the previous year.
After a little more winter reading, Rose came to understand that
butterfly numbers were dwindling. The consensus among entomologists seemed
to be that the butterfly population had decreased by as much as 40% in the
past 40 years. Destruction of natural habitat and the use of insecticides
were the primary reasons given for the decline in the butterfly
population. Human intervention, the willingness of individuals to plant
butterfly gardens and, then, to refrain from using insecticides in the
garden , was what would likely help to increase the butterfly numbers.
Plausible Negative Consequences of Protecting the Monarch under the Endangered Species Act
On August 26, 2014, a petition was filed with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, to protect the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners (The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, The Xerces Society, and Dr. Lincoln Brower) state that the North American monarch population has declined by more than 90% in the past two decades and may be threatened with eventual extinction.
I, like most butterfly
enthusiasts, am highly concerned by the drastically reduced monarch
numbers. But I wonder if adding the monarch to the Endangered Species List
will help or hinder the monarch population. I wonder, too, if listing the
monarch as an endangered species might, to an even greater extent, deprive humans of its
majestic beauty and further increase the distance between mankind and
Entomologists agree that
the most significant reason for the plummeting drop in the monarch population is
that milkweed is being destroyed at an alarming rate on agricultural
grounds, where it once grew wild in abundance. Milkweed is vital to the
monarch, for it is the host plant for monarch larvae. Without milkweed to
feed the caterpillars, the butterfly cannot complete its lifecycle and
thus, the monarch population cannot survive.
Since 1996, when
genetically-modified, Roundup-Ready crops were introduced, milkweed has
been rapidly disappearing from farmland. Farmers are now able to plant
seed without having to first till the soil, and then spray their fields
with Roundup to control the weeds. The herbicide kills the weeds
(including milkweed) but does not harm the crops. While only Roundup-Ready
soybeans were available in 1996, today the list of genetically-modified
crops includes soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, wheat, and
sugarbeets. Well over 90% of the corn and soy being planted in the U.S.
today are Roundup-Ready varieties, and there certainly appears to be
a direct correlation between the use of Roundup-Ready crops and the
destruction of milkweed in rural North America. And the scientific
community agrees that the loss of milkweed has resulted in the alarmingly
low monarch numbers.
Out of concern that an
iconic species might become extinct, the Endangered Species Act was passed
by Congress in 1973. The most serious threats to endangered animal species
have traditionally been shooting, poisoning, and trapping. To address
these concerns, Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act states that it
would be unlawful for any person “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot,
wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” the species in danger of
extinction. Known as the “take clause,” Section 9 makes it illegal for
people to take the threatened species from the wild. The government
extended the “take clause” to include the “taking of habitat which
harbors, or could harbor, the endangered species.”
If the monarch is added
to the Endangered Species List, it will then be illegal for anyone to take
a monarch from the wild, and if the Fish and Wildlife Service determines
at some point that milkweed is critical to the monarch’s survival, it may be illegal
to harm, wound, or kill a milkweed plant.
petitioners say they recognize the valuable roles that citizen scientist monitoring and tagging, and classroom and in-home
rearing of monarchs play in monarch conservation and hence request that
upon Endangered Species Act listing, the Fish and Wildlife Service
facilitate or waive permitting requirements for teachers and citizen
scientists, so long as their rearing endeavors are
limited to raising 10 or less monarchs per year.
likely is it that the Fish and Wildlife Service would allow teachers and
citizen scientists to rear monarchs in the home or in the school once the
monarch is added to the list? Not very
likely at all! Rarely, very rarely, has the Fish and Wildlife Service
granted exceptions to the “take clause” and permitted the general
public to take the listed animal from the wild and raise it in the home or
in the school. If the monarch is indeed listed as a threatened species, it
will likely be illegal for any U.S. citizen (except for university
professors who are studying the insect) to harass, harm, pursue, wound,
kill, trap, capture, or collect monarchs. It will almost certainly be
illegal to collect any number of monarch eggs, caterpillars, pupae, or
adults from the wild.
teachers and citizen scientists, rather than collecting monarch eggs
and/or caterpillars from the wild, purchase them from commercial butterfly
breeders, the industry that often provides adult monarchs for release at
weddings, anniversaries, open houses, memorial services, and fund-raising
events. The petitioners, however, ask that all commercial breeding of
monarchs be prohibited. Why? Because they somehow concluded that
commercial breeders were raising and releasing millions upon millions of
monarchs per year, potentially interfering
with scientific studies on the distribution and movement of wild monarchs which, the petitioners claim, are increasingly important in
light of habitat loss and climate change. In reality, commercial
butterfly breeders produce significantly less than 10% of the number of monarchs that the
petitioners guessed they do, even if the petitioners' "millions and
millions" meant only two million. Nonetheless, if the monarch is added to the
Endangered Species List, and if the petitioners request is granted by the
Fish and Wildlife Service, there will be no commercial breeders for teachers
and citizen scientists to obtain their ten or less monarch eggs and/or
caterpillars from (should they be unable to find them in the wild).
And as I stated previously, is is highly doubtful that the Fish and
Wildlife Service would make an exception to the "take clause"
and allow monarchs to be reared in the home or in the school anyway.
And as I stated previously, is is highly doubtful that the Fish and Wildlife Service would make an exception to the "take clause" and allow monarchs to be reared in the home or in the school anyway.
I would be saddened to think that citizen scientists and school teachers
would be forbidden to raise monarchs, thus denying children the rewarding
experience of observing the miraculous monarch metamorphosis first-hand.
Watching a monarch caterpillar chewing on milkweed is like watching a
child chew on an ear of buttered sweet corn. Seeing a caterpillar pupate
is nothing less than amazing, and witnessing the emergence of a majestic
monarch butterfly from its chrysalis is simply mystical.
would also be saddened to think that brides would be deprived of large,
beautiful, brightly colored monarchs on the most important day of their
lives, and that those mourning the loss of a loved one might have to
compromise for small, fast-flying, zig-zagging painted ladies instead of
graceful, ballerina-like monarchs. Everyone knows and loves the monarch,
and everyone wishes to have monarchs released at their special event.
many people, a butterfly release is their first close-up encounter with a
live butterfly. In releasing monarchs, people, often for the first time,
experience the amazing, relaxing, mesmerizing feeling that butterflies
bring to humans. Many people leave the butterfly release with a goal of attracting monarchs to
their gardens. Some newlyweds send a packet of milkweed seeds home
with every guest. If monarch releases are banned by the Fish and Wildlife
Service, all the people who have experienced the joy of a monarch
butterfly release will know that others are being deprived of something
quite spectacular, an experience that is beautiful and peaceful, and
brings people a little closer to nature.
so many U.S. citizens now aware of the fact that monarchs are
dwindling in number because milkweed is rapidly disappearing from the
agricultural landscape, many are eager to aid the monarch in its quest to
multiply. Americans have, in the last few years, begun to plant milkweed seeds
and plants by the tens of thousands. I know this to be true because I
operate a perennial nursery and have watched milkweed sales skyrocket in
recent years. And because the monarch has an enormous fan club, I have no
doubt that milkweed sales will continue to rise in coming years, in my
nursery, and in hundreds more across the nation.. Milkweed might be vanishing from rural farmland, but it is
popping up in home gardens, in city parks and state parks and national
parks, along nature
trails, and in botanical gardens. Within a few years, I suspect we will
see that milkweed hasn't disappeared, but instead, was simply
redistributed. And with a dramatic increase in the number of milkweed
plants will come an increase in the number of monarchs, this assuming, of
course, that droughts, floods, and violent storms don’t take their toll
on the population.
monarch is no more at risk of extinction than any other butterfly. Those
of us who garden for butterflies have watched the population of most
butterfly species dwindle over the past few decades. And last year, the
year that the monarch population was at a record low, so too were some
other butterfly species at record lows.
is widely accepted that (1) the loss
of habitat, and (2) the overuse of insecticides and herbicides are the two factors that
have contributed most to the diminishing butterfly population. Here in the
northeast, millions of woodland butterfly larvae have likely been killed
by aerial spraying that was intended to control the gypsy moth population.
Here and elsewhere, insecticides aimed at controlling mosquitoes and other
pestilent insects have probably wiped out thousands, and in all
likelihood, millions, more butterflies.
Butterflies were not the intended targets of the insecticidal spraying,
but they have certainly suffered the consequences.
think the monarch is fortunate in having an audience that is alert to its
needs and is willing to aid it in its time of need. Other butterfly
species are not so blessed. My opinion is that the monarch should not be
listed as a Threatened Species. Listing it will not likely increase its
numbers and may actually decrease their numbers. Planting more milkweed
will most assuredly increase the
population. Listing the monarch will likely make it illegal to raise
monarchs in the home and in the classroom, illegal to release monarchs at
weddings and other special events, and illegal to take monarch eggs,
caterpillars, chrysalises, or adults from the wild for any purpose
(including education and display). Likely, monarchs will have
to be removed from butterfly houses and other such public displays too.
of supporting the petition to list the monarch as an Endangered Species,
let’s all just plant more milkweed. I feel assured that will more
quickly increase the monarch numbers.
|In the past year, I have read numerous articles claiming that too many gardeners are planting the wrong species of milkweed. In planting Tropical Milkweed, the authors of these articles insist, well-intentioned gardeners are actually harming the Monarch, killing the monarchs, some proclaim. Tired of hearing this nonsense, I wrote the following article in response.|
Milkweed for the Monarchs?
by Rose Franklin, January 19, 2015
Americans are worried about the current status of the
Monarch butterfly population, and they should be. Monarch numbers have
dramatically declined in the past ten years or so. Some entomologists even
wonder if the spectacular annual migration to and from Mexico might one
day cease to exist. The over-wintering population in Mexico last winter,
2013-2014, was the smallest ever recorded, about 10% of the 20-year
Monarch enthusiasts, knowing that Monarchs must have
access to milkweed if the population is to increase, are opting to plant
milkweed instead of petunias, impatiens, geraniums, and marigolds. But
they are confused about which milkweed species they should plant. Some
gardeners are told they should only plant the milkweed species that are
native to their area while others hear that almost any milkweed, including
those that grow in the tropic jungles of the world, like Tropical Milkweed
(Asclepias curassavica), are suitable hosts for the Monarch.
It was scientists who first began to oppose the
planting of Tropical Milkweed. They claimed that because this milkweed
species grows year around in some parts of the U.S, it might disrupt the
Monarch’s migratory cues in autumn and facilitate in the creation of a
large population that does not migrate but, instead, resides year around
where Tropical Milkweed grows year around. And
there, where it is not killed off annually by autumn frosts (southern
Florida and along the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico), Tropical
Milkweed surely harbors pathogens and facilitates in the increased
transmission of disease (especially Oe, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha).
Researchers even know that there are, and have been for a number of years,
a few small Monarch populations residing year around, and breeding year
around, in isolated locations along the Gulf coast.
likely serves several purposes in the well-being of Monarchs. It compels
the Monarch to abandon habitat which might be contaminated with pathogens.
The long-distance migration also serves to weed out the individuals that
are weak and diseased, so that only the healthiest of the population is
left to produce offspring the following year.
migration is assuredly advantageous to the health of the Monarch
population, I am not comfortable in knowing that even a tiny fragment of
the Monarch population has become non-migratory and now breeds year around
in a few locations along the southern coast of the U.S. In those areas
where Tropical Milkweed does not die in winter, I urge people to refrain
from planting it. If it is already planted, I suggest the
Tropical Milkweed plants be cut to the ground in autumn and all the debris
discarded, thus eliminating the
possibility of Monarchs reproducing year around on foliage which might be
contaminated with disease. If those residents along the Gulf coast are unwilling or
unable to cut their plants to the ground every fall, I advise them to spray
their Tropical Milkweed with Roundup, repeatedly until it is completely gone. I don’t
generally advocate the use of Roundup, but in this case, I will tolerate
its use so that the Monarch will be able to multiply in healthy, disease-free
OK. I agree that in the 3% of the nation where
Tropical Milkweed grows year around, it could, and most likely does,
harbor and spread disease among the small Monarch population that has
chosen to reside and breed there year around. But, as
stated above, this could be prevented if people would cut their Tropical
Milkweed plants to the ground every fall. In the other 97% of the U.S.
though, I think Tropical Milkweed might well be of benefit to the Monarch,
especially at this point in time, when Monarch numbers are swiftly
dwindling (though, in my opinion, maybe not any faster than other
butterfly species are dwindling in number).
I do not believe that Monarchs migrating from eastern
Canada or the northeastern states of the U.S to Mexico could be persuaded
to stay in Pennsylvania or Virginia because they encounter a large stand
of Tropical Milkweed growing in a garden. I simply do not believe that.
Eastern Monarchs are genetically programmed to make the annual migration
to the over-wintering sites in the high-altitude oyamel fir forests in the
trans-volcanic mountains of central Mexico. Northeastern Monarchs emerging
from pupae between late August and mid-September are in reproductive
diapause and thus, not capable of mating and laying eggs. Probably in
response to shorter day length, cooler autumn temperatures, and/or the
orientation of the sun, they emerge from their pupae, feed on nectar to
store sugar in their bodies, and then automatically begin their long
I have been an avid butterfly gardener for twenty
years, and I have grown many species of milkweed in my gardens in central
Pennsylvania. My advice, at this particular point in time, is to plant
whatever milkweed species will aid the Monarch in its quest to survive and
Several years ago, I might have agreed with those who
advocate the planting of natives only. Today though, with the Monarch
numbers at an all-time low, I advocate that we plant whichever milkweed
species Monarchs will readily lay eggs on, and/or whatever milkweed
species Monarch caterpillars will readily feed on.
Having had many milkweed species our my yard over the
past two decades, my husband and I have seen that, consistently from one
year to the next, female Monarchs lay more eggs on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) than they do on any other milkweed species.
Annually, we find 200 or more Monarch caterpillars on the hundreds of
milkweed plants growing on our property. At least 70% of those are found
feeding on the Tropical Milkweed, not the Pennsylvania native Common
Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata),
or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias
Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), also known as Bloodflower, grows 36” to 48” high, generally blooms from mid-July through frost, and prefers full sun. It is native to tropical South America, Mexico, Central America, and a few torrid islands in the Caribbean and thus, must be treated as an annual in most of the U.S. Tropical Milkweed produces clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers which might be yellow, yellow/orange, or red/orange bi-colors.
I have to assume that female Monarchs know what they
are doing in choosing Tropical Milkweed for the laying of their eggs. If
they intrinsically choose to lay eggs on Tropical Milkweed, even when a
number of native species are available to them, they must have innate
reasoning for doing so. Monarchs are genetically programmed to halt
reproduction in fall, inherently wired to make the annual migration to and
from Mexico, and I think, innately programmed to know which milkweed
species is best suited for their offspring to consume. Maybe Tropical
Milkweed is more nutritious than native milkweeds, maybe it has something
to do with the amount of cardenolides in it, which, once consumed by the
caterpillars, serve to make both the caterpillars and the adult
butterflies toxic to birds.
Andy, my husband, and I offer a huge buffet of
milkweeds to the Monarchs that visit our property during the summer
months. Having a choice of depositing eggs on the hundreds of Common
Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed which grow in our yard, along
with other milkweeds too, they overwhelming choose Tropical Milkweed. I
don’t know why they choose it, and I don’t care why. I only know that
Aside from advocating the planting of Tropical
Milkweed because female Monarchs prefer it for egg-laying, I promote it
for another reason also. Tropical Milkweed is highly utilized as a nectar
source by fall-migrating Monarchs. In October, when Monarchs are still
migrating through Pennsylvania and most flowering plants are far past
their prime, Tropical Milkweed is generally still green and, apparently,
still producing sweet-flavored nectar. On warm, sunny October days, from
late morning through mid-afternoon, our Tropical Milkweed patches are
adorned by the flutter of dozens of migrating Monarchs. They stop by,
nectar for just a while, and then continue on their way.
Monarchs are in crisis--and so long as they are, and unless someone convinces me that Tropical Milkweed is causing peril to the Monarch (other than in that 3% of the country where it does not freeze out over the winter), I will continue to promote the planting of Tropical Milkweed. I love the Monarch, and my wish is that its population rebounds to the number recorded in Mexico during the winter of 1996-1997, the year the Monarch count was the highest ever recorded.
Franklin’s Glossary of Butterfly Terminology
|Photos (high resolution, copyrighted, photos available upon request)|
Copyright © 2002-2015. [Rose Franklin's Perennials]. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 13, 2016