Going Native

The summer of 2013 was a very bad year for the monarch butterfly. All summer long, I thought it was odd that I never saw a monarch. Reasons are not 100% clear but impacts include weather factors, loss of habitat in the US and Mexico, increased traffic on roads, and the extensive use of Roundup on genetically engineered crops. Farmers spray Roundup on these crops, killing all the weeds but not the crop.  The herbicide destroys milkweed upon which the monarch depends as a host plant.

This summer I am doing my part to go a little more native. In addition to nectar flowers, I’ve planted native milkweed. If the monarch finds my plants, I should have a monarch butterfly nursery. The plants will provide sustenance for the larvae.The blooms will provide nectar along with other nectar plants in the garden.

There are different varieties of milkweed but I planted butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with its bright orange bloom. It should do well in hot, dry, sunny spot in the border. The hint of first blooms are appearing and I am checking my plants daily for signs of eggs.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)What can we all do to help? While we hope for more favorable weather conditions, we can all plant several milkweed plants in our yards along with the nectar plants to sustain both the larvae and the adult monarch.

Monsanto’s Alfalfa Gets the Green Light



Last month the USDA deregulated Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa for unrestricted planting this spring (2011) in spite of protests and outrage from citizens and health groups. Genetic material from viruses and bacteria have been inserted that allows the crops to survive applications of normally deadly Roundup. Roundup-Ready (GE) Alfalfa will soon introduce the toxic herbicide Roundup herbicide (Glyphosate) around the world.

Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified (GE or GM) or Roundup Ready alfalfa will reach everyone’s dinner plate. You may not eat alfalfa but it is a primary food source for dairy cows and beef cattle, pork, lamb and sheep. The pollination process by insects will spread the pollen and alter the genetic makeup of all alfalfa plants.

Unless something is done to add restrictions on the seed, more than 21 million acres of alfalfa, the fourth largest crop in America, is due to be planted in the U.S. in several weeks. Right now, over 90% of alfalfa hay planted in the U.S. does not use any herbicides. The GE alfalfa will follow other modified crops: soybeans, corn and cotton, sugar beets and Canola.

The alfalfa is not only used as food, it is used as a soil amendment and will stay in the soil. The effects on our soil, plants, animals, and the human population was circulated among master gardeners today, which details the over 40 plant diseases that Roundup causes. If you would like to read this article, click HERE. If you want to join the voices who are protesting this latest development, send an email letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to urge him to fully investigate the damage from Roundup.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester