Saturday, August 23, 2008

Loonfoot Falls' Backyard Butterfly Preserves

There's very little grass in some Loonfoot Falls back yards. Colorful splatters of wildflowers and milkweed have replaced the neatly-trimmed lawns of over a dozen houses.

And that's just the way the owners want it.

They're members of the Asclepias Society, an organization dedicated to giving monarch butterflies a place to stay and raise a family at the summer end of their migration. The Asclepias Society was founded in 2000 by Samuel H. Robins, chief entomologist at the Minnesota Institute for Scientific Studies.

That was the year when the monarch butterfly became Minnesota's state butterfly.

The Asclepias Society gets its name from the scientific name for milkweed, a plant that young monarchs munch before turning into the orange-and-black adults.

A member of the Loonfoot Falls chapter, Howard Leland, said, "I thought it sounded crazy at first. You know: making your back yard into a butterfly preserve?" He decided to try planting wild flowers and milkweed in his back yard in 2005. After four summers with the Asclepias Society, the only part of his back yard not covered with flowers and milkweed is a path to the garage.

"It's great," Mr. Leland said. "Those wildflowers pretty much take care of themselves, and watching the butterflies beats most of what's on television."

This year's monarchs are either already on their way south, or soon will be. Mr. Leland and his fellow-Asclepiasans want to make sure that when another generation returns next year, they'll find plenty of butterfly-friendly back yards in Loonfoot Falls.

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