Campus Units

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Restoration Ecology




The decline in migratory monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) over the past 20 years has been attributed to several drivers, including loss of their host plants (milkweeds Asclepias spp.). This has sparked widespread interest in milkweed ecology and restoration. We developed a model on environmental and habitat type variables to predict milkweed abundance by sampling 93 prairie plantings (47 conservation plantings and 46 roadsides) and five unplowed prairie remnants throughout the state of Iowa, U.S.A. Milkweeds were censused in 10‐25 random locations within each site, and data on plant diversity, age of planting, soil characteristics, and management were tested as predictors of abundance. Milkweed densities of all species combined were highest in remnant prairies (8,705 stems/ha), intermediate in roadside plantings (1,274 stems/ha), and lowest in conservation plantings (212 stems/ha). Most milkweeds were common milkweeds Asclepias syriaca, which were more abundant in roadside than conservation plantings. Remnants contained the most milkweed species. Total milkweed and common milkweed abundance were both predicted by higher soil pH, a more linear site shape, and lower soil bulk density across restorations. Our results indicate that common milkweed is maintained by disturbance, and establishes readily in rural roadside habitat. Remnants are important as reservoirs for multiple milkweed species and should be protected.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Kaul, Andrew D., and Brian J. Wilsey. "Monarch butterfly host plant (milkweed Asclepias spp.) abundance varies by habitat type across 98 prairies." Restoration Ecology, which has been published in final form at doi: 10.1111/rec.12993. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

Copyright Owner

Society for Ecological Restoration



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Published Version