Latin America & the Caribbean

Monarchs get help from unlikely source: California’s drought

In this Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015 photo, Tom Merriman stands among native milkweed sprouts at his nursery in Vista, Calif. Five years ago, Merriman didn’t sell milkweed at all; this summer, he sold more than 14,000 plants and is shipping truckloads of seedlings all over California and other bone-dry Western states like Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

In this Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015 photo, Tom Merriman stands among native milkweed sprouts at his nursery in Vista, Calif. Five years ago, Merriman didn’t sell milkweed at all; this summer, he sold more than 14,000 plants and is shipping truckloads of seedlings all over California and other bone-dry Western states like Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

VISTA, Calif. (AP) — The struggling monarch butterfly is getting help from an unlikely source: the California drought.

Californians have been ripping up their lawns in record numbers and many are planting native, drought-tolerant plants instead — including milkweed species native to California that can thrive in arid conditions.

The female monarch butterfly will only lay her eggs on milkweed and a growing number of drought gardeners are buying the plants to save water and monarchs at the same time.

San Diego nursery owner Tom Merriman didn’t even sell milkweed five years ago. This season, he’s sold more than 14,000 milkweed plants, including varieties that can grow in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.

Gardener Anya Shortridge bought her first milkweeds last summer.

This summer, she’s released more than 100 of the majestic black-and-orange butterflies.

 

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