Sudbury group wants you to plant milkweed this Earth Day

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A Sudbury group is encouraging people to grow food for birds, bees and butterflies again this year.

In turn, these pollinators will help grow food for people.

The Greater Sudbury Pollinator Garden Project and its partners distribute milkweed seeds on Earth Day, Friday, April 22.

Rachelle Niemela, one of the project leaders, said milkweed is particularly important for ensuring there is enough food available for a key pollinator: monarch butterflies.

“The monarch butterfly is a major pollinator, so we don’t want it to go extinct,” Niemela said. “And it’s actually just a wonderful animal.”

One aspect that makes the monarch interesting, Niemela said, is the long and dangerous migration they make each year.

“Monarch butterflies actually migrate up to over 4,000 miles from the United States and Canada, where they breed here and down to Florida, down to central Mexico, where they hibernate through the winter” , she said.

“Then they migrate all the way back, over several generations, to lay their eggs here in our gardens.”

“These then become butterflies, which then help pollinate,” she said. “It’s one of the species that has really captured the imagination of people across the continent.”

Rachelle Niemela, one of the leaders of the milkweed project, said the plant is particularly important in ensuring there is enough food available for monarch butterflies. (Provided by Susan Coventry)

Sudbury, which has more green space than other urban centers like Toronto or Ottawa, should be able to support the species. But the reality is more complicated than just having green spaces, Niemela said.

“The problem with our green spaces is that a lot of them are manicured lawns that do absolutely nothing for pollinators,” she said. “And they don’t do anything for the plants that are needed to maintain our biodiversity and ensure that our overall ecosystems, including the food we grow, are actually good.”

According to a statement sent by the group, intensive agriculture and other rural land developments have led to a loss of milkweed in the butterfly’s breeding area, which they say contributes to their reduced numbers.

Starting on Earth Day, free milkweed seeds are available at Seasons Pharmacy & Culinaria at 815 Lorne Street during their regular hours.

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