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Health, Science, Environment

St. Louis riverfront butterfly habitat sponsored by company that sells Roundup

Mayor Francis Slay’s initiative to plant Monarch butterfly gardens throughout the city has a new addition in south St. Louis funded by a company that sells herbicides.

The 1,500-square-foot milkweed patch in south St. Louis is the first in a series of butterfly gardens planned along the Mississippi River.

Scotts Miracle-Gro gave St. Louis a $40,000 grant for the garden, which Slay said he was thrilled to accept.

“From our standpoint, they’re supporting our efforts to improve the environment, to grow plants, to help replenish the pollinator habitat in our community. I like to see them doing that kind of stuff,” said Slay.

The number of Monarch butterflies has dropped dramatically in recent years due to loss of habitat. Slay’s 2-year-old Milkweed for Monarchs initiative is an effort to help replenish that habitat. Some ecologists link the loss of Monarch habitat to a rise in the use of herbicides such as Roundup.

“Monarch butterfly decline is definitely a priority for us and this is just one way of us trying to mitigate some of the declines that we’ve seen over the years, and again getting kids engaged in (planting gardens) in their younger kids,” said Brad Rethman, Scotts’ vice president of sales for the Midwest region.

Rethman presented Scotts’ check to Slay on Wednesday at Bellerive Park after students from three nearby schools helped plant the milkweed garden. The U.S. Conference of Mayors is partnering with Scotts to select cities for Scotts’ Gro1000 grant, and helped present the award.

Joan Crigger of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Brad Rethman of Scotts Miracle-Gro present a check to Mayor Francis Slay on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Joan Crigger of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Brad Rethman of Scotts Miracle-Gro present a check to Mayor Francis Slay on Wednesday.

Elementary students from two schools had a break from the classroom Wednesday to help plant: St. Cecilia’s Catholic School and Carondelet Leadership Academy, a charter school.

“My dad showed me how to plant since I was a little kid,” said St. Cecilia fourth-grader Bridney Dominguez.

St. Cecilia teacher Katie Burns said her students learn about the parts of plants in fourth grade, and planting gave the children a nice chance to be active.

The elementary students were joined by a handful of seniors from John Burroughs School volunteering as part of the 95 service hours the private school requires in order to graduate.

“Even though it’s a mandatory thing I still enjoy it, helping out the community and getting out here in nature, hang out with some guys, getting active,” said senior Garrett Moore.

The new Monarch butterfly garden is in Bellerive Park, which overlooks the Mississippi River in south St. Louis.
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
The new Monarch butterfly garden is in Bellerive Park, which overlooks the Mississippi River in south St. Louis.

The new butterfly garden is located at Bellerive Park in the Carondelet neighborhood overlooking the Mississippi River. It’s the first in a series of Monarch habitats the city has planned for intervals along a 19-mile stretch of the river called the Riverfront Butterfly Byway.

“All along the Mississippi River we have a central flyway for migratory birds and waterfowl, and we think that this is also an excellent opportunity to celebrate our big river natural heritage along with our tallgrass prairie ecosystem natural heritage,” said Catherine Werner, St. Louis sustainability director. “This is an excellent stopover on (the Monarch’s) spring migration, which is just about starting. We’ll soon see some Monarchs in the St. Louis area.”

Werner said Great Rivers Greenway plans to add the second Butterfly Byway habitat at Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing in north St. Louis later this year.

“Where St. Louis is located is especially important for their fall migration,” Werner added. “So in September and October as they head back down toward Mexico this is a really critical stopping-over point.”

The Bellerive Park garden joins more than 250 registered with the city as part of the mayor’s 2-year-old Milkweed for Monarchs initiative.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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