Save MO Species: Preserving the Mead’s Milkweed
MISSOURI — Several species of Milkweed, a flowering native plant, call Missouri home.
However, the Mead’s Milkweed is the rarest of the Milkweed family and is currently listed as a threatened species.
In the final installment of “Save MO Species,” KMZU’s Dan Watson spoke with Angela Sokolowski, a Natural Resource Specialist with the Mark Twain National Forest, about the Mead’s Milkweed, why it is a necessary part of the Missouri prairie ecosystem and what efforts are being made to preserve and rebuild the remaining population within the state.
Click below to hear their conversation which aired Thursday on KMZU.
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Sokolowski explains that one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Mead’s Milkweed is the different color of its flowers when it blooms compared to other species of Milkweed.
“Its stands about 8-16 inches tall,” Sokolowski stated, “and blooms in May to June with a solitary flowering head of pretty cream-colored blossoms.”
The Mead’s Milkweed serves as a food source for migratory and native insects with one such pollinator being the famous Monarch Butterfly.
“Monarch Butterflies rely on Milkweed plants for their survival because these plants are the only food source for their caterpillars,” Sokolowski said.
Since being listed as a threatened species in 1988, two main factors have contributed to the decline of Mead’s Milkweed across the Midwest.
” There are several factors that have led to the loss of population numbers,” Sokolowski explained, “but the primary factors are habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation.”
Low reproduction rates, invasive plants are also among the list of causes for the loss of Mead’s Milkweed.
However, there are conservation efforts taking place around Missouri that aims to restore lost habitats across the state.
“In general, many conservation-based entities are constantly working to preserve, restore and manage our remaining grassland habitats,” Sokolowski stated, “this includes U.S. Forest Service, National Parks Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, Missouri Botanical Center as well as non-profit organizations.”
Efforts to help bring the Mead’s Milkweed population back include planting and raising seedlings and then transporting them to another region where they can take root and grow.