Illinois couple wants to help pollinators with North Dakota prairie donation

Donated land being enhanced to support butterflies, bees and birds

Ducks Unlimited (DU) is continuing to enhance a property in Wells County, N.D. to make it more attractive to pollinators, such as the monarch butterfly. Charlotte Adelman and her husband, Bernie Schwartz, both retired lawyers living in Wilmette, Ill., donated the 160-acre property to DU in late 2013. Located in the Prairie Pothole Region, the land was once in the Conservation Reserve Program and is exceptional habitat for breeding ducks. However, DU has been planting various native plants so it will support more wildlife, including butterflies, bees and birds.

"We are enhancing both the wetlands and the grasslands through management and supplemental seeding of native prairie flora," said Jonas Davis, DU manager of conservation programs in North Dakota.

Adelman and Schwartz are a driving force behind the project. They donated the property because of their great interest in promoting ducks and native plants, as well as their concern about habitat for butterflies, bees, birds and other native wildlife.

"If people want butterflies, bees and birds, they have to start planting native plants," Adelman said. "We chose DU because they're taking such a proactive role in making native prairie safe for the future."

DU planted pollinator-friendly species on the property, which will prove vital for monarchs. Adelman and Schwartz donated additional dollars to help DU with habitat enhancement activities.

Habitat loss has led to a 90 percent decrease in monarch populations in the last 20 years. During grassland conversion, important flowers and other forbs like butterfly weed are removed from the landscape. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a species of milkweed (Asclepias) native to North Dakota, among other states. It is a perennial plant growing 1 to 2.5 feet tall, with showy clustered orange or yellow flowers from early summer to early fall. Its ornamental appearance and deep tap root, which ensures the plant does not spread except from seed, makes it an excellent addition to North Dakota gardens. Native milkweeds are the only plants upon which monarch butterflies lay their eggs and reproduce.

This is not Adelman and Schwartz's first venture into conservation. Co-authors of "Prairie Directory of North America" and "The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants," they have been doing volunteer conservation throughout retirement. In 2010, with the help of Wilmette Park District and Boy Scouts, they created a nearly 2-acre native prairie public garden.

"I wish more people would plant native plants in their backyards and gardens," Adelman said. "It is something meaningful that people can do to help butterflies and other wildlife. Planting natives makes a tremendous difference."

Monarchs come to North Dakota in the late summer while migrating south for winter. The journey south takes four generations, so it is vital they find breeding habitat.

Media Contacts:

Becky Jones Mahlum