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Wildflowers Provide Critical Habitat for Wildlife and Pollinators

Posted by Justin Fritscher on May 03, 2016 at 02:21 PM
A monarch butterfly gathers nectar from a milkweed flower. NRCS helps agricultural producers plant Milkweed on farms, ranches and working forests to help the monarch and other species. USFWS photo.

A monarch butterfly gathers nectar from a milkweed flower. NRCS helps agricultural producers plant Milkweed on farms, ranches and working forests to help the monarch and other species. USFWS photo.

It all begins with a seed. Filled with food and information, it one day grows into something beautiful―a wildflower. And before the flower’s time is done, it has shared pollen and nectar for an abundance of bees, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators. When the flower is gone, it leaves behind fruit or seeds to feed wildlife, or to begin the cycle anew.

From prairies to roadsides and bogs to hillsides, wildflowers provide vital food and habitat for wildlife and pollinators. They’re an essential part of ecosystems and benefit conservation efforts on America’s private lands.

This week marks National Wildflower Week, a great time for everyone to celebrate the importance of native wildflowers. As native plants, they’re more resistant to pests, more resilient to climate extremes and require less maintenance. Plus, they’re beautiful!

Milkweed and Monarchs

Wildflower plantings are an essential part of many conservation efforts by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), especially ones aimed at creating habitat. Wildflowers, especially milkweed, form the core of the agency’s special effort launched last year to establish monarch butterfly habitat in the southern Great Plains and Midwest.

The monarch is one of the most familiar butterflies in North America. The orange-and-black butterfly is known for its annual, multi-generational migration from Mexico to as far north as Canada. To raise their young during the journey, monarch butterflies depend on milkweed, perhaps better called the “Monarch Flower” for its crown-like flowers and critical hostplant status for the monarch butterfly.

But monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of milkweed lost to agriculture, development and other causes.

This is why NRCS is working with agricultural producers in 10 states to plant milkweed and other nectar-rich wildflowers on their farms, ranches and other working lands. 

Right now, producers in the southern Great Plains and Midwest are watching milkweed and native wildflowers come alive on their land, while others are preparing their land for planting next fall.

Milkweed is the only food source for monarch caterpillars. To learn where you can find local milkweed seed adapted to your area, visit  USFWS photo.

Wildflowers Help Other Pollinators, Wildlife

Wildflowers on working lands benefit other pollinators, such as native bees and honey bees, as well as a variety of wildlife species. 

Pollinator conservation practices provide permanent or seasonal habitat to increase the abundance of pollen and nectar, expand the availability of blooming plants throughout the growing season (ideally from early spring to late fall) and add or protect potential nest sites and caterpillar hostplants.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help plan and implement pollinator conservation practices. Those interested in assistance are encouraged to contact their local USDA service center.


Tags: wildflowers, pollinators, conservation, milkweed, monarch butterfly

categories Plants & Animals

6 response(s) to "Wildflowers Provide Critical Habitat for Wildlife and Pollinators"

ward johnson says:

SaveOurMonarchs Foundation gives away Free Milkweed Seed Packets to anyone needing them at

In 2015, over 1 Million Milkweed Seed Packets were sent.
In 2016, over 2 Million are expected to be sent.

Your support would be appreciated.

Ward Johnson

chris parisi says:

While Free Milkweed seeds are great. Please be sure to get seed that at least originates from your region of the United States. The seed given away by SaveOurMonarch comes from the Midwest and although is a native A. incarnata, it is not suited for climates other than its original region. While saving monarchs and restoring habitat we must not lose sight of the fact that local ecotypes of the seed should get first priority. That is why the Xerces directory breaks it down by regions of the US.

NRCS says:

NRCS' Plant Materials Centers select and provide recommendations on plants which will enhance pollinator populations throughout the growing season. These wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses are an integral part of the conservation practices that landowners, farmers, and ranchers install as part of their conservation plan. For more information visit the NRCS Plant Materials Program, Plants for Insects and Pollinators page at:

NRCS says:

Lists of recommended plants for monarch butterflies for the Midwest and southern Great Plains are available at NRCS worked with The Xerces Society, universities, government agencies and other organizations to compile the best plant species in these two regions.


Southern Great Plains:

Roger says:

Does the NRCS give out packets of milkweed seeds . I would be interested in a small milkweed garden for monarchs.

NRCS says:

While NRCS does not offer milkweed seeds, many other organizations do. See the comments above for more information.

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