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Spring danger and beauty

May 12, 2017
By H.I. Jean Shields - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze


I have received mail that warns the garden club world of a dangerous problem with the popular milkweed plant that is the host plant for the monarch butterfly. Some new milkweed deliveries at the "big stores" have reportedly been treated with systemic neonicotinoids in Louisiana.

We gardeners have worked very hard to establish monarch way stations and to educate people on the decline of the monarch.

This problem has also been brought to light other years.

Millions of poisonous milkweed plants, if still distributed by chain stores, can be catastrophic.

The plants being sold do have a plastic notice tucked into the pot - the type of information notice that gardeners often ignore when buying a familiar plant. A disclaimer. This problem is being noticed again by garden clubs in the New Orleans area. A Louisiana State University AG agent for New Orleans, Dr. Joe Willis, noted that the neonicotinoids will dilute as the plants grow and not cause any problems. However, only a very small amount of the systemic poison is needed to kill the monarch larva, and bees.

I am sure the "big stores" are not out to erase the beautiful monarchs. The Louisiana stores have been advised that this is a huge problem and should be dealt with now!

However, the National Garden Clubs Inc., as well as many garden clubs throughout the U.S., including our local clubs, will step up to stop this dangerous threat before it grows out of hand and into our gardens.

Local garden club presidents are being notified and will be able to report any action taken as soon as possible.

I have investigated some of the "big stores" in the Cape. We are safe, for now. Home Depot stores here do have milkweed in stock, and no disclaimer tag. One distributor is from Florida, the other from Georgia. Managers at these stores are aware of a possible problem.

I found no milkweed at Lowe's.

A Home Depot in Fort Myers does have milkweed plants for sale with the disclaimer tags in the pots. A nearby Lowe's has milkweed for sale without any disclaimer tags. Its supplier is a Florida-friendly farm. A manager there explained that its plants are safe and that any systemic neonicotiods addition problem would be short-lived and not harmful to butterflies or bees.

The tags say the plants are protected from aphids, white flies, beetles and mealy bugs. Sounds like something is amiss.

I have spoken with one Garden Club member who claims she has purchased neonicotinoid-treated plants, and butterflies and bees did die.

If suppliers are paying more for this systemic addition to a plant, they are certainly charging the consumer more. It is even more confusing when the experts do not appear to agree if this systemic program is really a problem.

We certainly do not want to kill the butterflies or the bees, which are already dying out. Hopefully, our local horticulture and extension experts will have an opinion about this problem.

Remember, as I always say, read plant tags, every time. Stay alert and educated. Join a garden club.

Spring is here

The beauty of spring is the red bougainvillea, the red geraniums, trailing lavender queens wreath, groups of gorgeous lilies, the multi-color lantana bush and mounds of bright impatiens. I saw five young magnolia trees with their striking white blossoms in Fort Myers. Plus the very tropical frangipani tree, all sizes. Boy have the lovely roses started to bloom. Orchids, too, by the dozen.

I could list more, however, go to the big box garden stores and walk around the rows and rows of bedding plants, small and tall. Some will not last the entire summer but they are worth every week they do last.

The rains are coming, so get ready for a lovely spring.

Happy gardening, till we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is Past President of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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