Madison, NJ – June 20, 2022 – For the fifth year in a row, the Madison Environmental Commission (MEC) is holding a free milkweed and pollinator plant giveaway. Residents are invited to reserve one plant per family by going to tinyurl.com/4c9phmnm. Plants can be picked at the Farmer's Market at Dodge Field, on Thursday, June 23; from 1–5 pm. Plants not claimed by that time will be given to other Farmer’s Market attendees.
“The MEC’s pollinator plant giveaway is an enormously popular event—and great news for Madison,” notes Rachel Ehrlich, Borough Council liaison to the MEC. “Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Their caterpillars rely on the leaves as food. Unfortunately, the monarch population has drastically declined in recent years, due to habitat fragmentation and the absence of milkweed. If all of us plant more milkweed—and reduce pesticide use—we can make a difference.”
Over the winter, Joan Maccari, a native plant educator and MEC member, began sprouting six types of native milkweed plants, and native plants not commonly sold in nurseries. These include American Bellflowers (Campanulastrum americanum), Violets (Viola species) and Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis). Depending on the variety, the plants grow one to six feet tall. All provide food (nectar and pollen) for native bees, butterflies, moths and other beneficial insects—many of which consume pests such as aphids and mosquitos.
New Jersey used to be filled with vacant lots, forests and meadows where native wildflowers grew,” says Maccari. “Suburban yards are actually well suited to replicating pollinator-friendly environments with native species that caterpillars rely on, such as milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and many others.”
She points out that Madison has a number of pollinator gardens to visit for inspiration. They include the Drew University Forest Preserve with its carefully restored native plant understory, Central Avenue School’s butterfly garden, Gibbons Pine Park rain garden, the Madison Community Garden and the Madison Recreation Center’s pollinator meadow, located near the high school.
For questions about milkweed or native plants, please write to the Environmental Commission at MEC@rosenet.org.