Ozark Outdoors

Mayor makes ‘Monarch Pledge’ on behalf of Springfield

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Monarchs are drawn to host plants with orange blooms, like this native milkweed. Most butterflies only lay their eggs on certain host plants.

Springfield Mayor Bob Stephens will make the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge at the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Thursday, March 9, 4 p.m., in a ceremony formalizing Springfield’s commitment to help save the monarch butterfly. A proclamation will be issued at the ceremony.

The popular and iconic monarch butterfly has experienced an alarming 90-percent population decline in the last 20 years. In response, national, state and local agencies, citizen organizations and school groups have joined forces to create habitat, host demonstration gardens and provide research and education to ensure that future generations have the chance to enjoy the monarch.

More than just a beautiful creature, the monarch is also an important pollinator insect.

“The plight of the monarch is part of a larger concern for pollinators,” explains Dr. Chris Barnhart, Distinguished Professor of Biology at Missouri State University, and curator of the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House in Springfield. “Bees, butterflies, and other insects pollinate many plants and trees. Without pollinators, these plants can’t reproduce themselves, and they can’t make the fruit, nuts, and seeds that we eat. Pollinating insects are that essential.”

The Mayors’ Pledge formalizes the community’s commitment to protect monarch butterfly habitat, provides a vehicle to collect and track local accomplishments, and helps the community set goals for future efforts.

Many of Springfield’s butterfly conservation activities are centered at the Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House in Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park. As the only all-native butterfly house in Missouri, this seasonally operated facility provides an up-close look at native butterflies as they transform from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, providing educational information about host plants and how to incorporate them into the home landscape. The Butterfly House hosted nearly 40,000  visitors in 2016 and is highlighted at the annual Friends of the Garden Butterfly Festival and the fall Monarch Tagging event. An adjoining Butterfly Garden and Native Caterpillar Cafe provides nectar and host plants for butterflies. The Butterfly House and surrounding gardens are supported by volunteers from Friends of the Garden and donations from visitors.

Other local organizations, such as Master Gardeners of Greene County, the Springfield Plateau Chapter of the Missouri Master Naturalist, the City of Springfield, Greene County, Springfield-Greene County Park Board, Dickerson Park Zoo, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, Missouri Department of Conservation and the Conservation Nature Center, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and many others are collaborating to provide habitat, offer educational programs and work with property owners to turn around the declining monarch numbers.

Springfield City Council voted to accept a Missouri Department of Conservation grant to help Springfield Public Works create and maintain monarch habitats in traffic islands along Sunset Street.

The Mayors’ Monarch Pledge is a program coordinated by the National Wildlife Federation and supported by the US Council of Mayors. Information about the program may be found at www.nwf.org/mayorsmonarchpledge .

For more information or for media inquiries, contact Lisa Bakerink, Executive Director of Friends of the Garden, at 417-874-2952 or email lbakerink@springfieldmo.gov.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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