By Kristin Boza
BAPA’s Monarch Project initiative includes a map of seven public and 14 private areas designated as official Monarch Waystations. One location on the BAPA map is the home of NItza Ohana, which has been a certified Monarch Waystation for more than 15 years. Located at 9040 S. Damen Ave., Ohana welcomes all to drive or walk by and observe the beauty of her native garden and enjoy some butterflies, bumblebees, and other pollinators going about their day.
Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation and research program out of the University of Kansa, is responsible for providing the official Monarch Waystation designations. According to their website, MonarchWatch.org, “Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.”
Milkweed plants are absolutely essential to enable the monarchs to breed and migrate to their winter habitats in Mexico.
Ohana moved into her home in 2017, but the garden was born about 30 years before that. The home was once owned by Mary Warden, who Ohana declares “ahead of her time” when it comes to the native plant movement.
“I feel like I bought a garden with a house attached to it; while I don’t know much about Mary, I do know that what she did is very meaningful and a labor of love,” Ohana said. “It’s such a special place and she spent an enormous amount of time cultivating it. I feel like I’ve gotten this gift from a woman I never met, and I don’t want to ruin its magic.”
Building upon what the previous owner created, Ohana is expanding the front garden and working to ensure the plants are well taken care of to support the monarchs as they make their way through their migratory patterns.
When Ohana moved in during August 2017, she was greeted a huge number of butterflies fluttering among the plants. She has been observing their patterns and expects another great butterfly sighting this month.
“All butterflies want is a sunny spot and some milkweed, which propagates itself. When I’m tending to the garden I make sure to leave the milkweed wherever it lands because that’s what the butterflies want,” she said. “I’d love to see everyone switch out their lawns for native plants; it is spectacularly beautiful and there is hardly any maintenance at all.”
Ohana’s method for creating more space for butterfly-friendly plants is to choke out weeds and lawn by covering a space with newspaper and placing mulch on top. This will kill whatever is beneath it. In the fall, she spreads wildflower and pollinator seeds throughout the area, and plants milkweed. The milkweed plant’s leaves provide a safe space for the caterpillars to build cocoons.
“I can’t even tell you how many friends I’ve made from being out front and working on the garden,” Ohana said. “I call it my ‘prairie in progress’ space.”
Monarch Watch requires that more than one variety of milkweed be planted in Monarch Waystations. In addition to the variety that we commonly see around the neighborhood, butterfly weed and swamp milkweed are pretty and popular.
Milkweed can be difficult to grow from the seed, but as gardeners are becoming more interested in creating welcoming butterfly habitats, they are more available where plants are sold.
Gardeners can purchase butterfly garden starter kits and individual milkweed plants at City Grange, 1818 W. 99th St., citygrange.com.