Monarchs benefiting from drought tolerant landscaping trend - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Monarchs benefiting from drought tolerant landscaping trend

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As thousands of monarch butterflies arrive on the Central Coast to spend the winter months, they are getting help from an unlikely source - the drought.

Local landscapers and nurseries say there is a major trend toward planting native milkweed because it's drought tolerant and beneficial for the butterflies.

Josh Carmichael of Carmichael Environmental Landscape Design & Build says demand for milkweed is at an all-time high.

"Milkweed has become a really popular plant this year and rightfully so for all the sake of the monarch butterflies losing their habitat," Carmichael told KSBY.

Barry Garraway ripped out his lawn this year and planted 27 milkweeds instead.

"It's drought tolerant, it has nice little flowers and you produce something as beautiful as a monarch butterfly," Garraway said.

Teresa Tappan works in the nursery at Miner's Ace Hardware in Grover Beach and says they can hardly keep the plant in stock.

"We have people calling to ask when our next delivery will be," Tappan said.

Carmichael had one client order 100 milkweed plants earlier this year.

"It's just being able to find it right now. We've had to scramble a little bit for people wanting it," Carmichael said. "We've had some growers really increase their production."

Danielle Patterson of Oceano Dunes State Park, says they will have a better idea of how much of an impact the milkweed landscaping trend has on the population next year. Until then, she's optimistic.

"It could be a big impact," Patterson said. "As long as there is a habitat and food source, we would hope that the numbers could increase."

Cheryl Powers is a docent at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and says encouraging people to plant milkweed is an important part of her tours.

"It's just one little insect coming out that you feel like you played some particular role in helping to bring back the population of the species," Powers told KSBY.

For many monarch enthusiasts like Garraway, watching a chrysalis hatch is much better than watching grass grow.

"I know that there are hundreds of the caterpillars that have gone into my yard and set up chrysalises," Garraway said.

The type of milkweed you plant is very important. Experts say opt for the native narrow leaf milkweed which requires very little water and the monarchs thrive upon.

They recommend not planting tropical milkweed because it needs more water and can be toxic to the butterflies or cause them to develop deformities.

The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove kicks off its season with an all-day event this Sunday.

Docent expect to see more than 30,000 butterflies visit the grove between now and January.

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