The Port St. Joe Garden Club ("PSJGC") held its February meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14. The featured speaker this month, Nancy Jones, is the retired executive director and founder of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Atlanta and a PSJGC member. Ms. Jones's presentation, "Saving a Species: How You Can Help Monarchs" provided information regarding the significant decline of the monarch butterfly, arguably the most recognizable butterfly in the United States with its orange and black wings.

The monarch is a migratory phenomenon. Each year the population of eastern monarchs migrate to the highland mountains of Mexico while the western population travels to the coast of California. Over the past 20 years the population of monarchs has been in sharp decline, down 90 percent. In August 2014 protection for the Monarch was sought as being a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. The reasons for the decline are multifold including loss of habitat, overuse of pesticide, and climate change.

The monarch lays its eggs only on the milkweed plant. The milkweed is the only food source for monarch caterpillars. And the milkweed is also in decline.

What can you do to help the monarch?

Plant milkweed.

But be careful you plant native milkweed. Native milkweed supports healthy monarch populations and supports the monarch's migratory pattern. Native milkweed dies back in the fall; with no milkweed to feed upon the monarch butterflies continue to migrate. Tropical milkweed, asclepias curvassavica, grows year round thus leading to less migration as the butterflies continue to feed without migrating. New research also suggests there is a link between tropical milkweed and a parasitic disease causing deformation of monarch butterflies wings. Unfortunately, tropical milkweed is the most widely available milkweed at big box commercial nurseries.

Therefore before purchasing milkweed to help the monarch population in its recovery, please make sure the milkweed you are planting is a native species.

The Port St. Joe Garden Club is currently working on a landscaping plan for its grounds and would like to incorporate a butterfly garden to assist the monarch, other butterflies and pollinators. If you are interested in learning more about such gardens or would like to help the Garden Club on planning this garden please join us for our next meeting to be held on March 14 at the Garden Center. March's presentation is entitled, "The Buzz in the Garden."

The speaker will be Daphney Glass, beekeeper, beekeeping instructor and apiarist at Sweet Lips Honey. Please check out our Port St. Joe Garden Club Facebook page for additional information on this or future presentations or email psjgardenclub@gmail.com to RSVP or request further inquiry.

The Port St. Joe Garden Club is a national and historical site and is available for rental.