Thank you for the beautiful cover story about monarch butterflies [Majestic Monarchs; September]. Monarch butterflies have suffered devastating losses in recent years. Bad weather conditions and loss of habitat in their winter grounds in Mexico have taken a severe toll on the population. In addition, here in the north we continue to eliminate their host plants when we clear land for housing, commercial development, or farming. However, there is something each one of us can do to help. We can plant milkweed. Monarch butterflies will only use plants of the genus Asclepias, the milkweed family, as host plants to lay their eggs and feed on as caterpillars. Whether we live in urban, suburban or rural areas, we can plant common milkweed or butterfly weed, both perennial and quite lovely, in our gardens and help to give the monarchs a place to breed. For more information, or to get milkweed seeds, readers may contact: Live Monarch at: the link listed below. Monarchs need milkweed to survive. Plant Asclepias!
Alice Sanvito, St. Louis
Editors’ note: For more on monarchs, visit: www.MissouriConservation.org/kids/out-in/2004/08/1.htm. Also, the Bill Roston Native Butterfly House at Close Memorial Park in Springfield is open for viewing the monarch life cycle in a real-life environment complete with host plants. The operating season is May 15 through Sept. 30, admission is free. For more information, call Dr. Bill Roston at (417) 683-3733 or (417) 593-3414.
We’ll miss you, Ben!
For the past three years, we have lived in Springfield and have enjoyed the extraordinary beauty of the nature center. Our son, Ben, has down syndrome and autism and our daily walk together at the center is one of the highlights of his day and of ours. The staff are always friendly and helpful. The site is beautifully maintained. Ben likes to sing Christmas songs as we walk along the paths and our fellow walkers have been gracious. I think even the turkeys are now used to hearing “Frosty the Snowman” in the middle of August! Now that we are preparing to move to California, I had to let you know how deeply we have appreciated this amazing community resource and will very much miss our daily walks. The conservation efforts of this state are among the things that we treasure most about it. Please convey our thanks to the staff at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center.
Jeff Hittenberger, Springfield
Ask the ombudsman
On Aug. 7, my 4-year-old daughter, Faith, and her 6-year-old cousin, Mitchell, were in our backyard playing. My husband went out to get them for lunch, and they were standing in front of a big bush. My daughter was holding onto a stem with little green and purple berries on it. She popped one into her mouth. Then panic set in; my husband had no idea what type of plant this was. I was on the phone contacting poison control, the children’s pediatrician and my nephew’s mom. At this point, we still had no idea what this plant was. My father-in-law suggested that we also contact the Conservation Department. I grabbed our magazine and found “Ombudsman questions.” My husband called and spoke with Tim Smith. Tim was able to identify this plant almost immediately as elderberry. The pediatrician’s office called us back and I told them that we received our information from the Conservation Department. The nurse said this was an excellent source. Huge thanks to you, Tim Smith, and to the Department!
Shannon Tiller, Winfield
The great horned owl in October’s Haunted Habitats article was provided courtesy of Raptor Rehabilitation Project of Columbia. We regret the error.
Submissions reflect readers’ opinions and may be edited for length and clarity.