A caterpillar enjoys a free lunch of milkweed planted along Grandview's Main Street.

Monarchs on Main

“I’m too excited not to share…we have monarchs on Main Street!” 

By Jill Draper

Grandview’s Main Street is not just for cars, bicycles and pedestrians anymore. It’s also a butterfly highway and a certified monarch waystation.

The city’s first horticulturist, Cheryl Schweizer, has been sprucing up a series of beds along a half-mile stretch of Main Street from U.S. Highway 71 to 8th Street since she started her position in April. Alongside existing plantings of daylilies, roses and evergreen shrubs, she’s added flowering annuals and native perennials to attract pollinators, including milkweed for monarch butterflies—the only food their caterpillars eat. 

Grandview’s Parks & Rec Department is planting pollinator-friendly beds at city hall. Pictured near a sculpture called “Pangolin Curl” are Cheryl Schweizer, horticulturist, and Jared Elbert, director. Photo by Jill Draper

It didn’t take long for the monarchs to lay eggs on this new food source. On June 30 she noticed several caterpillars and relayed the news to her co-workers in the Parks & Recreation Department. “I’m too excited not to share…we have monarchs on Main Street!” 

In addition to monarchs, the newly renovated beds are loaded with other types of butterflies and bees lured by the blossoms of lobelia, coreopsis, liatris, asters, purple poppy mallow, zinnias, boneset, coneflowers and more. About 75 percent of the flowers are native to Missouri, and will be more drought-tolerant than exotic species after they’re established, Schweizer says.

Also after they’re established, she plans to harvest their seeds and/or make divisions for other public property like The View Community Center and various city parks. At some point there might even be a seed-sharing program for Grandview residents.

Schweizer obtained most of the native plants from nearby nurseries like Suburban Lawn and Rosehill Gardens in Martin City and Critsite in Belton. Others came from Missouri Wildflowers near Jefferson City and her own yard.

It’s all part of a 10-year parks master plan that was just completed, says Jared Elbert, who joined the Grandview Parks & Rec Department as director about one year ago after working in natural resource management in Iowa. He says the department is inventorying city property and what it might take to make the area around The View into a certified wildlife habitat. According to a survey, the community is generally happy with the park system, but would like to have more benches, trails and connections to other areas.

Schweizer laughs as a butterfly briefly alights on her hand, then takes flight. Photo by Jill Draper

Meanwhile, the revitalization of Main Street as a butterfly highway is popular with people passing by or stopping at city hall. “There’s been a great response, all positive comments,” Elbert says. “It’s important because pollinators basically provide our food for us.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the nation has suffered serious losses of pollinators in the past 30 years, and reversing their decline is key to feeding the future. For example, of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world for food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80 percent require pollination by insects and animals, says the USDA.

“Wild Hair” is one of seven artworks along Main Street from Sculpture on the Move. Photo by Jill Draper

Another type of cross-pollination is happening on Main Street—rotating works of art are enhancing the look of the new plantings. Through a partnership called Sculpture on the Move, cities in Missouri pay a fee to install sculptures in public spaces for two years with an option to purchase. Seven of these artworks have been scattered along the same route as the pollinator beds since 2022. The program is offered through the Creative Communities Alliance. Grandview is one of several metro area cities participating, including Lee’s Summit, Raytown and Gladstone.

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