Clear Lake Chapter

Chapter Meeting: From Egg to Adult: How Milkweeds and Native Plants Help Monarchs

October 10, 2022

Just as milkweeds are the only plants Monarch butterflies use to raise their young, our native plants are also critically important to the adult Monarchs as they migrate through Texas. TPWD Texas Nature Trackers Biologist Craig Hensley shares the natural history of milkweeds and introduces you to native plants that provide important nectaring sources for Monarchs as they migrate through Texas each fall.

About the Speaker

Craig Hensley is a Texas Nature Trackers Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He has also served as a district Wildlife Biologist and for eight years was the Park Interpreter for Guadalupe River State Park. A native of Iowa, Craig has worked in the field of interpretation/nature education for 30+ years, from Minnesota and Iowa to Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. He is an avid naturalist, photographing and studying everything from wildflowers and butterflies to birds, dragonflies, and all else in-between. He is father to two grown children and grandfather to five.


Books on Monarchs

The Monarch Butterfly: Biology and Conservation, 2004, by Michelle J. Solensky and Karen S. Oberhauser.
Monarchs in a Changing World: Biology and Conservation of an Iconic Butterfly, 2015, by Karen Oberhauser, Kelly R. Nail, Sonia Altizer (editors).
Monarchs and Milkweed: A Migrating Butterfly, A Poisonous Plant, and Their Remarkable Story of Coevolution, 2017, by Anurag Agrawal.
Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage, 2001, by Robert Pyle.
Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly, 2001, by Sue Halpern.
Bicycling with Butterflies: My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration, 2021, by Sara Dykman.

Hosted by Environmental Institute of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake.

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason