Butterfly sanctuary in Douglas

Showy milkweed plant or common milkweed. (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)

 

By Suzanne Robinson
Empire Press Correspondent

Barbara Lowe in her Monarch waystation with her foster children who have been helping with the project, Jasmin Lorenz-Lowe, Khloie Oman and Kioni Oman. (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)

Monarch butterflies are close to being on the endangered species list, which inspired Barbara Lowe of Douglas and her foster children to do something about it.

After reading an article in the Douglas County Empire Press last January (“Garden Network leading charge to bring back butterflies,” by Eric Tegethoff of Washington News Service), Lowe became determined to bring the Monarch butterflies back to?the?area. Along with her friend, Karen Sims, who was looking for projects for kids, the two?women came up with the idea of creating a Monarch sanctuary.

According to the Monarch Watch website (monarchwatch.org), ?Monarch butterfly populations are declining due to loss of habitat. To assure a future for Monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority.?

Monarchs only use the milkweed plant to lay their eggs so metamorphosis can begin. Milkweed is also known as the ?heroic plant,? as it was used during World War II to fill inflatable (Mae West)?life preservers to keep it waterproof. During the war, citizens grew 100 million pounds of milkweed a year to support the war effort. Now, because of development and genetically modified crops, more than 80 million acres of Monarch habitat has been destroyed.

Narrow leaf milkweed plant. (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)

As a foster parent, Lowe has cared for many children throughout the years. One of her foster children, “who was a beautiful young woman” according to Lowe, took her own life and left behind a young family. Lowe has dedicated her Monarch sanctuary to?this young woman named LaShaunda.

Each time?Lowe plants a milkweed plant or sees a butterfly in the garden she feels her beloved LaShaunda is close by. The sanctuary is appropriately named LaShaunda?s Garden, in her memory. Lowe also hopes to raise awareness about depression and suicide and how to deal with loss.

Milkweed plants take?two?to?three years to flower and can be planted in?a backyard with very little care after the first year. The blooms are?attractive and can be very fragrant. Monarch waystations are very sparse right now in Central and Eastern Washington.

LaShaunda?s Garden is a certified Monarch waystation and Lowe is encouraging residents of Douglas County to join in the effort to host Monarchs. Waystations can be done as a classroom project, family project, scouting project or as a service project.

For more information about starting your own waystation, visit?monarchwatch.org?or call Lowe at (425) 754-6949. Lowe also has milkweed plants available and is willing to talk with anyone interested in?starting a waystation or growing milkweed.