What Can One Person Do?

By Bonnie Porterfield

Darrow Road Park projected meadow signAs you drive along State Rt. 91 in Hudson, Ohio, you pass a community park, Darrow Road Park. As long as I’ve lived in Hudson (38 years), it’s just been there, nothing really to look at. An occasional pick up football game on the lawn near the parking lot and a few people using a trail, but nothing more notable, until this past year, when I noticed a sign posted near the parking lot with a picture of a beautiful meadow.

Around the same time, our local garden club put together member garden visits with limited numbers of attendees due to Covid. The featured garden that piqued my interest was a pollinator-friendly garden. What an inspiration! The owner had transformed her whole yard into a haven for all kinds of pollinators using native plants, trees, and shrubs. During the tour, she mentioned the Friends of Hudson Parks (FOHP) and described what they were doing with the Darrow Road Park to restore it as a pollinator meadow. This led me to the FOHP’s website for further information.

As it turns out, there was one woman with a strong interest in pollinators that got the ball rolling. She had attended programs by the Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association in 2019, as well as visited some previously restored native habitats. These were the inspiration for her idea of transforming Darrow Road Park into a more pollinator-friendly meadow that she brought before the Hudson Park Board. Her perseverance with the Park Board proved successful! This, in turn, led to a collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Private Land Division, the Hudson Park Board, and Friends of Hudson Parks.

Darrow Road Park meadow before June 2020After much work behind the scenes, the restoration of this 6-acre park began in June 2020, with the first phase consisting of removing native spring flowering plants. These plants found a temporary home in local gardens to be returned to the newly restored meadow in the spring of 2021.

During the following month, large woody invasive trees and shrubs, along with invasive grasses, were removed. FOHP members and community volunteers gathered in August and dug out hundreds of native plants amongst the invasive weeds and moved them to the Hudson Springs Park Monarch Waystation Garden. FOHP members also found monarch eggs in the field, which they hatched off site, and returned them to the milkweed plants at the Monarch Waystation Garden. Many of these eggs became caterpillars, formed chrysalises, and emerged to join the migration south.

Monarch Waystation signUS Fish and Wildlife biologists removed the remaining weeds and cold season grasses in August and September. Then in October, they tilled the meadow for late fall/early winter seeding. After the first frost, the meadow was “frost seeded” by the USFW biologist. (For a description of frost seeding, click here.) In early spring 2021, the field was mowed to cut back invasive grasses and to encourage native plant root growth. First growth from the 2020 frost seeding should be well under way. Since this is a 3-year project, the meadow will be managed under the direction of the USFW biologist.

Restoring this area to a more pollinator-friendly site will increase wildlife biodiversity and provide a beautiful meadow for wildlife and the surrounding community. In the future, as I drive past this park, I will enjoy the beauty of this new pollinator meadow and realize that one woman, with a group of like-minded individuals, can make a difference in our communities by bringing man and nature together to create amazing Green Bridges.

To learn more about The Herb Society of America’s GreenBridges™ Initiative, go to https://www.herbsociety.org/explore/hsa-conservation/greenbridges-initiative/greenbridges-initiative.html.

Photo Credits: 1) Darrow Road Park Projected Meadow sign; 2) Darrow Road Park “meadow” prior to June 2020; 3) Monarch Way Station sign. All photos courtesy of the author.

Bonnie Porterfield is a forty year Life Member of The Herb Society of America and a member of the Western Reserve Unit.  She has served in many roles during that time including two terms as Great Lakes District Delegate, Unit Chair, Co-Chair of the Western Reserve Unit’s first symposium and member of the GreenBridges™ and Library Advisory Committees.  She is an avid herb gardener, reader, learner and supporter of local efforts in reestablishing natural areas that promote native plantings.

Monarchs need milkweed

Little did we members of the Native Herb Conservation Committee know when we chose redring or white milkweed (Asclepias variegata) the Notable Native Herb for 2014 that monarch butterflies would suffer a precipitous drop in numbers in the summer of 2013.

We were well aware of the uses of many members of the Asclepias genus for medicines, food and fiber and we knew we wanted to highlight its importance as a larval food source for Danaus plexippus. Even then, it was clear that monarch butterfly numbers were continuing to drop due to habitat loss and pesticide use and it was our intention to help in the effort to bring that to our members’ attention. But we could not have anticipated that there would be the fewest adults measured in recent memory during the summer and fall of 2013 and that the cry to preserve and restore habitat by planting regionally appropriate milkweed species would be such a focus for the spring of 2014.

Although a large number of Asclepias species may be found throughout the continental US and into Canada and Mexico, Asclepias variegata has a relatively limited range.

While many members across the country may desire to grow our 2014 Notable Native in our gardens, I suggest you seek out milkweed species that are regionally appropriate and found growing wild in your own region.

Here on Long Island in southeastern New York, there are three species found growing wild: Asclepias incarnata or swamp milkweed; A. syriaca or common milkweed; and A. tuberosa or butterfly milkweed.

Several years ago, I joined the board of the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, Inc. We collect seed from wild lands on Long Island and grow many of our collections for sale at our annual plant sale. We grow all three milkweed species and find an appreciative audience for these natives.

Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa) is the crowd favorite at our June plant sale. Eager buyers flock to it. Is it because of its charismatic name or the promise of those flame-orange flowers in the hot, dry Long Island summer sun? I am not sure but we cannot grow enough of it to satisfy demand.

I adore the nodding umbels of A. syriaca — the delicate shading of its petals is in such contrast to the coarse paddle-shaped leaves. If it is local to you, don’t be afraid to find places for several of these on your property. They will weave themselves through grasses and other perennials in an exuberant border and are easily pulled if they stray.

But my favorite for ease of growth, beautiful color and attracting monarchs is A. incarnata or swamp milkweed. You don’t need a swamp to grow it! Any well drained and somewhat well watered garden soil will do. It grows three to four feet high with several flowering stalks to each plant. One of its greatest attributes is that it will bloom the same year grown from seed.


By growing Asclepias native to your region, you will join legions of other gardeners and conservationists in 2014 across this continent attempting to aid in the resurgence of the beloved monarchs.

submitted by: Dava Stravinsky, Long Island Unit, Northeast District
Source for plants: www.monarchwatch.org
Fact sheet from HSA: http://www.herbsociety.org/herbs/documents/AsclepiasvariegataFactSheet-1.pdf