Those beautiful Monarch butterflies we see fluttering along are in need of food, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and your local farmers’ markets are here to help.

For the next few weeks, the Central Coast State Parks Association is going to sell starter narrow-leaf milkweed at markets in Arroyo Grande (Wednesday and Saturday) and San Luis Obispo (Saturday morning). Milkweed leaves are the primary food source for monarch caterpillars, and the plant’s natural toxins render the caterpillars and adult monarchs noxious to most predators.

While monarch numbers are always high at the popular grove in Pismo Beach, the butterfly U.S. population is down 80 percent since the mid-90s, according to the USGS. Even in Pismo, the 2017 count (20,000 +) was down from the year before (28,000 +).

The milkweed being sold at the markets come as a perennial shrub with a 3-foot stem and long, narrow leaves. Individual flowers are greenish-white and may be tinged with purple. Long, slender seed pods form in July.

Narrow-leaf milkweed is hardy and easy to grow.  It requires full sun and it is drought tolerant. It grows well in most types of soil, and it attracts large numbers of native bees.

Read more facts about the monarchs at the Pismo monarch grove site.

Milkweed photo: Wikipedia