Pelham House Resort Volunteers Plant Milkweed at Pleasant Bay Woodlands

Amid snow flurries and temperatures near freezing, volunteers from the Pelham House Resort joined Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) Director of Land Stewardship Connor O’Brien and HCT’s AmeriCorps Cape Cod member Daniel Ecsedy to plant milkweed seeds in the meadow at Pleasant Bay Woodlands.  The dedicated group donned work gloves, hats, and winter coats to learn about the monarch butterfly life cycle and understand why monarchs depend on milkweed for survival.

Since the 49-acre Pleasant Bay Woodlands was preserved by HCT in 2015 thanks to the generous support of donors, many volunteers working alongside HCT staff have enhanced the property by creating walking trails, building a trailhead, and restoring a meadow overtaken by invasive vegetation.  In 2022, HCT volunteer Jan Oudemool spearheaded a project to enhance the conservation value of the meadow by turning it into monarch habitat.  

The monarch butterfly is an important part of the ecosystem as they are reliable pollinators for many native plants.  Unfortunately, monarch populations have declined significantly in the past century and the migratory monarch is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  The primary threats to the monarch are habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.  Recognizing the plight of the monarch, Jan and HCT felt the need to be proactive in restoring monarch habitat.  Milkweed plants are the only food for monarch caterpillars and the only plants on which monarch butterflies lay their eggs.  By planting the milkweed necessary for their life cycle, monarch habitat expands, and butterfly populations are supported. 

Volunteers from the Pelham House Resort supported this effort by planting milkweed seeds.  Using lessons learned from initial experimental plantings, Pelham House Resort staff spread throughout the meadow and planted three native species of milkweed seeds: Common Milkweed, Butterfly Milkweed, and Swamp Milkweed.  Planting was purposefully planned for this fall because native milkweed seeds require an overwintering period in the soil to start the germination process next spring.  We are excited to see what comes up in summer 2024!  HCT thanks all of the dedicated volunteers who have worked on this project, especially staff from the Pelham House for lending their time and enthusiasm! 

Please enjoy the photos of the volunteer day below taken by HCT volunteer Gerry Beetham.