New law to protect milkweed in Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new law was passed in March that protects milkweed and bans noxious weeds in Michigan.

House Bill 4857 was signed into law on March 12, but it’s been in the legislature for years. State lawmakers introduced the bill in 2021.

State bill works to protect milkweed and monarch butterflies

The law classifies what plants are noxious weeds. The list includes Canada thistle, dodders, mustards, wild carrot, bindweed, perennial sowthistle, hoary alyssum, giant hogweed, ragweed, poison ivy, poison sumac and another plant “regarded as a common nuisance” by governing bodies.

The last part of the law states that “noxious weeds does not include milkweed”.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s native. It belongs here. It’s a part of Michigan,” Julie Batty, the land stewardship manager at the Blandford Nature Center, said. “It’s really nice to see a native plant like milkweed getting some attention and some love and respect.”

When Batty heard that about the new law, she was ecstatic, because milkweed is critical for monarch butterflies.

“They have to have milkweed to lay their eggs on as they go and if they don’t have access to the milkweed, they cannot reproduce,” Batty said.

Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars are able to eat and the only plant that monarch butterflies can lay their eggs on. Without it, Batty said it could cause problems for the entire habitat surrounding them.

“When we lose those, we lose our insects. So for monarchs and for all the other native insects, it’s important to keep those native plants around so that they have something to eat,” Batty said.

The way to ensure monarch populations survive is by making sure more milkweed grows, according to Batty.

“Even a small area that’s planted with the stuff that monarchs and other butterflies, caterpillars, insects like, can be really, really beneficial,” Batty said.

The Blandford Nature Center has two areas to view milkweed. At the Visitor Center, you can see how to plant milkweed at your own home. The other area is the Highlands, where it grows among other native plants.

“One really great thing about native plants is they don’t want much from you because our weather is suitable for them, our soil is suitable for them, so milkweed is tough stuff,” Batty said.

You can learn more about milkweed and take some home at the Blandford Plant Sale on May 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. It is at the Blandford Nature Center.

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