The Monarchs and The Milkweeds

 Milkweed is a perennial pollen-producing plant found throughout Conway Farms’ native areas. Its characteristics identify this plant: paired leaves on the stem, pink to white “hourglass-shaped” flowers, and a seedpod developing from a fertilized flower. If you look close enough at this plant, you may spot a pollinator. Pollinators are animals or insects that move pollen to fertilize plants to produce seeds. Although they are known as pollinators, their primary interest from these plants is the sweet nectar produced by the flowers for their nourishment and nourishment for their young. There are many plant and pollinator relationships in Illinois, but I want to emphasize the relationship between Milkweed plants and Monarch butterflies. 

Just as many species of birds migrate south for the winter, so too do the Monarchs. Monarch butterflies make a 2,500-mile flight to live in hibernation for six to eight months in Mexico or Southern Florida in the fall. At the end of February/early March, they make the trip back up north and begin to lay eggs. Enter the Milkweed’s importance. Monarch butterflies use the Milkweed’s nectar as a “fuel” spot throughout this flight and as a spot to lay eggs when they return in the warmer months. After the eggs hatch, the larvae exclusively feed on the nectar of the Milkweed for survival. 

Monarchs and Milkweeds currently face a loss of native prairie lands and wetlands from land developments and planned plant removal. Many local and national groups are trying to remedy this problem through advocacy for the Milkweed. Some of these solutions are educational seminars, working with the state’s department of natural resources, and planting Milkweed back into prairies/wetlands. Here at Conway Farms Golf Club, the maintenance department is doing our part to help their cause. There will be no more unnecessary removal of Milkweeds. Our goal is to balance the natural aesthetics and playability of the native areas at Conway Farms, all while being environmentally conscious.

Thank you and enjoy the golf season,

Cole Lehman
Assistant Superintendent