Monarchs will have a lot more native nectar plants drawing them to the Rio Grande Valley this fall and next spring thanks to packages of wildflower seeds which “planted” the idea for pollinator gardens by the Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas.
“The seed packages from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) given to me by my father which I planted at home sparked the research. That’s when I found the Texan by Nature Monarch Wrangler Program,” said Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas Harlingen Service Unit manager, Danielle Dodier-Pena. “I wanted to find different ways to promote stewardship in my Girl Scout troop. I realized I was thinking too small and I expanded it to all 43 troops in the area.”
The nonprofit Texan by Nature partners with state and federal agencies, academia and non-government organizations to improve habitat for the Monarch butterfly and other pollinator species. The partnership includes USDA-NRCS, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, The University of Texas in Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Department of Transportation and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), just to name a few.
The Monarch Wrangler program is the Texan by Nature’s statewide initiative that provides organizations, individuals, companies, farms and ranches with results-oriented and meaningful ways to get involved in creating habitat essential to the monarch butterfly through planting beneficial native plants, removing invasive species, and tagging or tracking monarchs.
After Pena applied for the Monarch Wrangler program in April, the Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas planted an assortment of native plants at the Valley Haven Emergency Children’s Shelter which will be opening soon.
“We are proud to host a Monarch Garden at Valley Haven Emergency Children’s Shelter,” said Pamela Alvarez, co-founder and program coordinator at Valley Haven Inc. Emergency Children’s Shelter. “We look forward to incorporating this project as part of Valley Havens programming so the children at Valley Haven can help in caring for our garden while learning about the Monarch Butterfly and the importance of conserving our natural resources.”
The Girls Scouts also cleaned up the community park’s garden at Primera Community Garden and planted native species to enhance the garden. In June, the Girl Scouts worked on their third Monarch Wrangler garden by planting more native species at the Combes Community Center. Texas NRCS presented the Girl Scouts and their troop leaders’ copies of the new Pollinator Partnerships poster, which shows the I-35 corridor also known as the “Monarch Highway,” that highlights native plants that can be planted for natural habitat to support the annual migration of the monarch butterfly.
“The monarch gardens make me feel happy because the butterflies will have a home and a better chance at living,” said Jade Gutierrez, Girl Scout in Troop #150. “I care about the Monarch because it’s a beautiful butterfly that represents Texas and I love nature.”
Girl Scout, Sofia Pena from Troop #150 likes planting days because “I am helping butterflies and Texas, and I love both!”
As the Monarchs travel through Texas in the fall and the spring, the Girls Scouts of Greater South Texas plan to monitor the gardens to catch glimpses and photos of the colorful butterflies to share with others and educate them about the importance of native plants and conservation.
For more information on the technical and financial assistance provided by NRCS on Monarch conservation efforts, visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov or contact your county NRCS office. For more information on the Texan by Nature efforts including the Monarch Wrangler Program, visit http://texanbynature.org.
Wildflower Seeds Spur Pollinator Gardens by Girls Scouts of Greater South Texas, Melissa Blair, USDA-NRCS PAS (2017, June)