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The Johnny Appleseed of Milkweed

Thanks to Helena Scher for helping Bay Weekly readers propogate butterfly-loving plants

       It takes just one person to plant a seed of change.

         This spring, Helena Scher of Millersville has taken on that Johnny Appleseed role for the planting of milkweed.

         “We had a nice crop last summer,” Scher says of her backyard common milkweed. “Many butterflies visited.”

         Milkweed is a giving plant. It sustains two generations of butterflies — the adults that eat its nectar and the caterpillars of the upcoming generation of monarchs that feed on its leaves. It also produces seedpods to produce new generations of milkweed. From last year’s backyard crop, Scher, a retired St. Mary’s High School English teacher, harvested three pods. The result was hundreds of seeds. So many that she offered the bounty to Bay Weekly.

         “You ran a letter asking where to purchase milkweed seeds,” she remembered.

         Negotiations ensued, and soon Scher stepped up with a bag full of neat envelopes, each holding 12 seeds.

         Come and get them, we advertised in our April 4 issue. Or for seeds by mail, send your self-addressed, stamped envelope.

         By foot and mail, traffic has been brisk from readers throughout Anne Arundel and Calvert counties. We’ve given away four dozen packets and still have more to give.

         Scher’s good deed means that no-longer common milkweed will return to yards throughout Chesapeake Country. In turn, butterflies of all sorts, especially threatened monarchs, get many new fly-in eateries.

         Monarch butterfly populations are decreasing at an alarming rate due to habitat lost to development and chemical-supported farming. Monarch larvae eat exclusively from the plants in the milkweed family, making it essential to their survival.

         “It’s important that you plant milkweed common to your area, such as the type Scher provided,” says ­Hester Burch, butterfly enthusiast and naturalist at Annmarie Garden. “If the milkweed you plant is not common to the area, the bloom time may be off and won’t be of much help when our butterflies pass through.”

         To further help the butterflies, Burch recommends limiting — preferably eliminating — the use of pesticides in your yard.

         Bay Weekly has a few packets left, so drop by or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to join in the effort.