Earthworms’ Castings

with Jean Ponzi

One Milkweed, One Vote, One Matters!

Our place is awash in shade. Native trees and bushes for sure. But we’ve grown a forest here. Too dim for native blossoms.

I had given up on living color for this year when, the first of March, we dismantled a structure in front of our home. Bare ground emerged – in a pool of light! What to plant? Zinnia seeds! The most reliable annual was leafing up, sunward, by Earth Day. Yay!

My improvised work-from-home spot, our dining room table, looks out over what became a riot of nodding blooms. I refresh a vase of flowers each week. By August, winged flutters were distracting me from Zoom. Bumblebees! Butterflies! Pollinator parties!

One day, straying out there, I thrilled to find Monarchs gaily gathering zinnia pollen. Zinnias, while not native, do feed pollinators. And Monarchs, as you probably know, are declining along with their host plant clan, the Milkweeds.

With a thud, I realized: there is not one milkweed on this place.

We had them, back before I gave up on sun-loving plantings. But through a few deep-shade seasons, even Asclepias syriaca, the giant super-spreader Common Milkweed, the one that can become a “thug” and jump into every bed on your place, had given up the sun-starved ghost. It hadn’t occurred to me this year, surprised to get one sunny patch, to plug a couple milkweeds in between my rows of zinnia seeds.

Monarchs come to enjoy a feast, but they cannot reproduce in our yard.

Monarchs are, in ecological terms, a Specialist species. If a Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on anything other than a milkweed plant, hatchling Monarch caterpillars will starve. Specialism is a rare evolutionary path. When your partner is imperiled, so are you. And so it goes for Monarchs, as wildflower habitat shrinks under siege from herbicide tolerant commodity cropping, and our general human ignorance of ecology.

Another critical point of human disregard occurs when we neglect to vote. Especially when we believe our one vote doesn’t matter.

Granted, national elections are typically won by thousands-of-votes margins. Plus the doo-dah of our colonial, vestigial Electoral College. But local elections, often, are decided by as few as tens of votes! And at that federal level, those tens add up to thousands, fast.

I’m too late to raise milkweeds for this generation of Monarchs. But I won’t be lacking Milkweed for their spring pass-through! Into that Zinnia patch they go, this fall! To be nodding with the annuals – and maybe some native coneflowers and blazing stars – for next year.

Voting can’t wait till next year.

Our democratic values are on the thin survival line. Along with our society’s need to dismantle racist, sexist and other-ist systems that we see we have the People-Power to address. Leadership we still critically need. Not to mention surviving pandemic constrictions, and (the big one) Climate Change.

One milkweed in my zinnia patch could have helped support the recovery of a species.

One vote from every one of us can support the recovery of so much more.


Jean Ponzi invites you into Green conversations on her podcast Earthworms, from KDHX St. Louis Independent Media at www.kdhx.org.