(Video: Greg Francis)

By Jode Roberts, Homegrown National Park Project

When we launched the #GotMilkweed campaign this spring, we weren't sure what to expect.

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Milkweed is essential for the survival of monarch butterflies and is a great nectar source for bees and other pollinators, but it has historically been a tough sell. Not only does it have the dreaded word weed in its name, most provinces have also labelled it a noxious weed.

But the times they are a changin'. This spring the Ontario government took milkweed off its naughty list. And when we announced the Toronto-based #GotMilkweed campaign, it generated front-page coverage and we sold out our supply of 4,000 milkweed plants in just a couple of weeks.

The video above shows the sunny Sunday when hundreds of Torontonians descended on Christie Pits Park to pick up their milkweed.

So where did the milkweed go?

The plants are now growing in hundreds of yards, gardens, balconies, alleys and parks throughout the Homegrown National Park and across the city.

Students from Dewson Street Junior Public School planted more than 200 milkweed plants in their schoolyard. Humewood Community School joined the Community Canoe project by installing a canoe planter filled with milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants in front of their school. And St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School got local reporters out to see their new pollinator garden.

Some folks got really creative. Marc Yamaguchi threw a butterfly-themed birthday party for his three-year-old daughter, staged a "flight of the butterflies" and sent each family home with milkweed in lieu of loot bags. Residents of Palmerston Square tore up more than 600 cubic feet of asphalt and replaced it with milkweed and more than 150 butterfly-friendly plants.

Thanks again to the supporters of the #GotMilkweed campaign. And if you haven't got yours yet, we encourage you to drop by your local garden centres and nurseries. If they don't carry species of milkweed native to your region, ask them to. And be sure to go in again next spring. The greater the demand, the greater the supply. And more milkweed means a much better chance for monarchs.

June 16, 2014

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