In response to the Federal pollinator strategy and the crisis in Monarch butterfly populations, the BLM New Mexico State Office and Taos Field Office recently collaborated with the National Park Service’s Southwest Exotic Plant Management Team (SWEPMT) to grow more than 10,000 milkweeds for pollinator habitat restoration projects across New Mexico.
The effort began in 2015 via a cooperative agreement between the National Park Service (NPS) and Santa Ana Pueblo native plants nursery to start growing plants at their facility. The species include Antelope horns (Asclepias asperula), broadleaf milkweed (Asclepias latifolia), and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). The seeds came from sites across northern New Mexico and eastern Arizona via the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in 2011. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Los Lunas Plant Materials Center grew three species from 2013-2015, and the three native species provided to the NPS were grown at a seed lot in 2015.
Asclepias speciosa is in the family Apocynaceae. Commonly known as showy milkweed, it is native to much of western North America. The showy milkweed is a perennial plant that grows in open areas such as grasslands, prairies, and disturbed areas. The white and pink flowers are arranged in dense umbellate cymes and bloom from early Summer to Fall. Like other species of milkweed, the showy milkweed serves as a host for both the monarch caterpillar and butterfly. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of the plant, while the mature butterflies visit the fragrant flowers for nectar.