dupage monarch project: communities protecting pollinators


June 2016

Carol Stream and Elmhurst Mayors Put Out a Welcome Mat for Monarchs

Monarchs journeying north from Mexico will soon find DuPage County a more hospitable place to spend the summer thanks to Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley and Carol Stream Mayor Frank Saverino. The mayors have signed on to a nationwide monarch conservation initiative sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and pledged to make their communities more monarch friendly.


Over the past twenty years there has been an alarming decline in suitable breeding habitat for monarchs in the Midwestern cornbelt. According to Chip Taylor, a University of Kansas professor who has been studying monarchs since 1992, 173 million acres of monarch habitat has vanished, an amount equivalent to the state of Texas. As habitat dwindled, the monarch population declined, reaching a low in 2013 of only 10% of their historic average. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed, as it is the only plant the caterpillars eat and it has been nearly eradicated from farm fields and roadsides where it was once abundant.

NWF’s pledge offers 24 suggested actions communities can take for improving and increasing the amount of habitat, from planting a demonstration garden to converting abandoned lots to monarch waystations.

Monarch conservation is a community wide effort in Elmhurst with the Garden Club, Public Library, Park District and Cool Cities Coalition joining the city in informing residents about the plight of monarchs and giving away milkweed and nectar plant seeds donated by the DuPage Monarch Project at their events. DuPage Monarch Project is a partnership of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage, Sierra Club’s River Prairie Group, The Conservation Foundation and Wild Ones Greater DuPage Chapter with a mission of supporting monarch conservation by advocating for municipal resolutions or pledges and encouraging residents, businesses, schools and churches to plant monarch gardens.


Gardens can replace lost habitat when nectar rich plants like black-eyed susans, zinnias, asters and coneflowers are planted, along with milkweed. In DuPage County, over 190 gardens have been certified by Monarch Watch as a waystation, which is a garden that provides everything a monarch needs to complete its life cycle.

With Mayors’ pledging to protect monarchs, more waystations will be coming soon and seeing monarchs will once again be one of our summer pleasures.

Photo credits: Adult monarch nectaring photo by Alison Bock; Jan Hanson’s monarch waystation in Bartlett photo by Jan Hanson

Take a Tour of DuPage Monarch Waystations

In honor of National Pollinators Week, June 20 – 26, DuPage Monarch Project invites you to visit some of the monarch waystations in DuPage County.

A waystation provides the things monarchs need for successful breeding, milkweed for egg laying and caterpillar food, nectar plants for adults, and water in a sunny location sheltered from the wind. Insecticides are rarely used in the maintenance of a waystation and invasive plants are removed periodically by hand.

The self-guided tour showcases the ways waystations fit into ornamental and naturalized landscaping. From cottage style gardens to parking lot perimeters and prairies, attractive habitat is being made available to the monarchs who summer in DuPage county.

Downers Grove

 Downers Grove Public Library     1050 Curtiss St

Common milkweed grows among day lilies in the ornamental beds with nectar plants, an innovative combination of monarch friendly milkweed and garden stalwarts.


Lyman Woods     901 31st St      Downers Grove

Lyman Woods offers 150 acres of diverse habitat to explore and enjoy. The most outstanding feature is a 19-acre oak woods that has remained undisturbed since it was purchased by the Lyman family in 1839. Today it serves as one of the few examples of the pre-settlement landscape that dominated the Downers Grove area.

The designated butterfly garden is to the east of the William F Sherman, Jr. Interpretative Center. Common milkweed is present and a grant has been received this year to fund 500 swamp milkweed plants for the small pond west of the Interpretive Center.

The William F Sherman, Jr Interpretative Center is a green building with many energy and water saving features.




Wilder Park Conservatory   225 S. Prospect   Elmhurst

The butterfly garden is found south of the greenhouse and offers one of the few waystations with tropical milkweed. The ornamental gardens on the grounds contain numerous nectar plants, both annuals and perennials.  Added interest for your visit is the Conservatory with its collection of tropical plants.


Great Western Prairie   North of the Prairie Path between Spring Road and Salt Creek  Elmhurst

You can ride your bike on the Illinois Prairie Path to this waystation. As a prairie there are few amenities on-site so take water and insect repellant though there are local businesses and restaurants nearby for a snack, meal or shopping.   Be aware of blackbirds if it’s the nesting season as they are territorial and will dive bomb to make you move on.

The nectar plants are traditional prairie plants. In late May, there was a combination of blue spiderwort and white foxglove beardtongue. There are large patches of common milkweed.

If you walk along the path on the north side of the prairie, you will encounter a “bee hotel” for non-colony forming native bees.

A visit to the Great Western Prairie provides an opportunity to distinguish between dogbane and milkweed, as both can be found growing there.  They have a similar appearance and both have a milky white, toxic sap.


Eldritch Park     363 W Commonweath Lane     Elmhurst

Eldritch Park provides an excellent example of how recreation and natural areas can co-exist in a municipal park setting. Naturalized areas with milkweed and nectar plants provide borders between soccer fields, a sledding hill and playground. There is even room for a bee hotel.



Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn Public Library     400 Duane St     Glen Ellyn

Waystation is located between the parking lot and Prairie Path

Drifts of white daisies offer early summer nectaring opportunities for returning monarchs. Common milkweed is scattered throughout the ornamental planting covering the hillside, spilling over into the path.


Glen Ellyn     Crescent Blvd between Main and Glenwood     Bordering Parking Lot

Identified by the Park District and Village’s “We Support Pollinators” sign, the native planting hosts common and swamp milkweed, blue false indigo, heuchera and many summer blooming prairie plants.


Willowbrook Wildlife Center     525 S Park Blvd     Glen Ellyn

A donation of $1.00 is requested for visitors. The Center is open to the public and offers educational displays, animals that are permanent residents and walking trails. This site highlights three distinct areas of monarch habitat, a cottage style garden with a variety of nectar plants, more formal landscaping around the animal rehab building with whorled, butterfly weed and Sullivant’s milkweed mixed with sedges and prairie grass and naturalized areas with common milkweed along the trails. This is one of the few waystations on the tour with whorled milkweed.



Oak Brook

Oak Brook Public Library     600 Oak Brook Road     Oak Brook

The monarch butterfly garden is on the south side of the building, around to the right of the front entrance. Designed by Art and Linda’s Wildflowers, the garden hosts swamp milkweed and butterfly weed, with common emerging in various landscaped areas around the library. Not typically listed as a nectar plant, the garden includes blue eyed grass which was blooming in May.



West Chicago

First United Methodist Church     643 E. Washington     West Chicago

Designed by Art and Linda’s Wildflowers, this garden located at the entrance to the church offers an attractive selection of native plants including a butterfly water feature, an important element of a successful waystation.

The garden functions as green infrastructure for storm water. Two downspouts are directed into an underground receptacle that when filled, water bubbles back to the surface, out and over a rock stream bed.



 Cantigny Park     1S151 Winfield Rd     Wheaton

Parking fee is $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends during the summer. The park offers several kid friendly attractions, tanks from WWI and WWII, a military museum and splash fountain. The fountain rules specify no bathing suits, no towels, and no admittance to buildings with wet clothes. A restaurant and café are available for adding a snack or meal to your visit

Several gardens provide nectar plants and a prairie area supplies common milkweed as the larval host plant. Head for the Idea Garden where the Monarch Waystation sign is displayed and visit the adjacent prairie where dragonflies and butterflies can be seen feeding.

Illinois Institute of Technology   Rice Campus   201 East Loop Road    Wheaton

Prairie landscaping at IIT provides habitat while reducing maintenance costs, eliminating emissions from mowers, managing storm water and creating a quiet, bucolic setting. The areas surrounding the building are well maintained lawn with traditional landscaping. On the far side of the parking lots is a generous sized prairie growing milkweed and nectar plants. Blooms in early June were spiderwort and foxglove beard tongue with a diverse suite of plants in line for summer and fall flowering.

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