Planting Native Species to Support Monarch Butterflies

July 7, 2022

Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo is an urban oasis teeming with life. This serene, prairie-style wetland surrounded by a meandering boardwalk and native plants and trees is the perfect place for Chicagoans to connect with nature in the heart of the city.

Four Midwest native species of milkweed are present around the boardwalk, allowing visitors to view and admire these species up close.

What milkweed species can you visit at Nature Boardwalk? Take a look, below!

Photo courtesy of Ellen Neely.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Identifiable by its bright orange flower, butterfly milkweed is native throughout the entire Midwest. This species of milkweed thrives in hot, dry environments.

Photo courtesy of Ellen Neely.

Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillate)

With fragrant white flowers that bloom in early to late summer, whorled milkweed is a sight to see—and smell! This species can be found in upland prairies, sunny rock outcrops, meadows, and disturbed open land.

Photo courtesy of Ellen Neely.

Prairie milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii)

This species of milkweed looks similar to common milkweed, but its flowers are larger and fewer in cluster, with a deep rosy pink. It can be spotted in prairies and savannas, or even on roadsides and in meadows.

Photo courtesy of Ellen Neely.

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Swamp milkweed is distinguishable by its upright, flat clusters of fragrant pink and white flowers. This species has been observed to be more attractive to pollinators and adult monarchs for laying their eggs.

Lincoln Park Zoo is proud to be a partner of the AZA SAFE North American Monarch program, which focuses on conservation efforts to protect this charismatic species.

How can you be a part of conservation efforts in your own community and help monarch butterflies during their migration? Check out the ways, below, to get involved:


The horticulture team plants milkweed around Nature Boardwalk.

Live wildlife friendly by building wildlife habitats

Conservation efforts can begin in your very own backyard! Planting native plants, like the species of milkweed listed above, can help monarch butterflies thrive. Native flowering plants help feed monarchs along their migration, and milkweed serves as places for the species to lay eggs.

Choose pesticide-free plants

Pesticide-free plants are best for pollinators. Check with your local nursery or store before purchasing plants for your garden.

Get outside and enjoy watching monarchs

A simple way to get involved is to get outside and connect with nature. Share your love for wildlife with friends and family.

Record and share your monarch sightings with community scientists

Have you spotted a monarch butterfly recently? Share your sightings with scientists to help track monarch migration.

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