70+ mile flyway corridor, west to east, El Dorado County

The goal of the Sierra Monarch and Pollinator Rescue Project is to build a 70+ mile "breeding habitat connectivity flyway network", running West to East from the Central Valley, through Amador to Pollock Pines. The flyway will reduce the distance Monarchs and other pollinators have to fly to the next nutritious habitat in the foothills of El Dorado  and Amador Counties during the spring/summer/fall breeding season. 


You can be part of the Research Team, receive 15 free milkweeds and 3 nectar plants by filling out the survey to be part of the flyway!

The project will increase the monarch’s breeding grounds to over 125+ acres of managed pollinator habitats in public access lands, working farms and private residents' properties. Using mananaged lands instead of wild lands ensures pesticide and herbicide free stewardship of the habitats for 10-20 years. Managing habitats without pesticides and herbicides ensure pollinators and beneficial insects have quality foraging and breeding grounds.  The managed habitats will increase the availability of native nectar plants, indigenous El Dorado County Milkweeds, and native shelter plants for the pollinators along with allowing for Land Manager Citizen Scientists. 


The project will bring together a coalition of nonprofit groups, schools, businesses, government agencies and individuals like you, to bring back the Monarch Butterfly and supporting pollinators to El Dorado and Amador Counties.

Update: We are expanding our territory to branch through Amador County to hook up habitat restoration work being done in San Joaquin County by Xerces Society, Point Blue and River Partners! 

Monarch Identification

Female Monarch

Swallow tail

Male Monarch has little black dots on the orange background on its lower wing.

California Sister (from Wikimedia)

Indigenous milkweed

Know your milkweeds

Tropical Milkweed found in big box stores and random seeds from Amazon are controversial and it is unknown their affects on Monarch Butterfly population in California... particularly in El Dorado County.  A safer option is to use native milkweed plants.


Tropical Milkweed is controversial!

Tropical Milkweed looks a lot like Lantanas, with their beautiful orange, red and yellowish flowers.  See photo for identification.  Sold in Home Depot, Lowes and other Big Box Stores it has been banned in Ventura, San Mateo, Marin and many other counties. The State of California CDFA has put Tropical Milkweed on the "noxious weed list" due to this controversy. Tropical Milkweed is implicated in hosting OE parasites but the parasites are not particularly drawn to that genotype of milkweed. Tropical Milkweed purchased from a big box store should be washed off which should dispose of the OE parasites.  Labels on Tropical Milkweed pots says it should be cut down October 31.   Probably the bigger problem with Tropical Milkweed or plants purchased from big box stores is their use of herbicides and pesticides that remain on the plants.


Sierra Monarch Rescue is only using California Native Milkweeds, grown without pesticides and herbicides.

We are using California Native Milkweeds from local growers who do not use pesticides and herbicides. Several species of Milkweed we are growing are sourced from El Dorado Native plants. Indigenous Milkweeds will have flowers ranging from yellow to pink - purple (see photos in Gallery).  We will distribute Indigenous Milkweed to you for free until the Grant runs out. Get on our 2023 waiting list today.  Register today to be part of the Pollinator Flyway Network and get your free indigenous milkweed.

Tropical Milkweed has
orange and red flowers.  

This is indigenous milkweed.
Order from us. 

Why does my milkweed have these little orange bugs on it?

Don't panic. Those are ladybug treats! 

We are erroneously taught that all "pests" are bad.  Pesticides are often broadcast sprayed in farms or on private lands.  Before there were "pests" there were just insects that ate plants, other insects, fungus etc. as part of the ecological life cycle. So understand this... "a weed is a plant that man has not found a use for..." and a "pest" is a insect that man wants to get rid of.  Getting "rid" of a pest insect may be taking food away from a beneficial insect.

Milkweeds are not a "weed". The Natives had a use for them to make cordage, latex and medicinal products. When you break open a milkweed it has white latex in the center stalk similar to a Dandilion (by the way Dandilions aren't weeds either, they come when your soil is so compacted and they break up the soil, adding beneficial microbes and then eventually go away when their job is done). 

The little orange bugs clinging for dear life on the Milkweeds are Oleander Aphids. They love love love milkweed. They don't eat roses, cannabis, or other farm crops.  The Aphids are food for the ladybugs. If you plant milkweed near your vegetable garden, the Aphids will bring the ladybugs and the ladybugs will stay in your garden and eat the other pests. A perfect cycle and an amazing show.  Enjoy your little orange bugs. 

When to Plant

Monarchs migrate through California in spring (March-May) and fall (August-October), and will benefit from planting done in spring, summer, or fall. If you plant in the fall, select perennials that will die back in the winter but come back in the spring. Also, be sure to finish planting before the first frost, which is usually around November 1.

Where to Plant

Choose an area that receives 6-8 hours of sun per day. It’s also best to plant in an area that is sheltered from the wind. If your site does not have windbreaks, plant some shrubs or tall grasses to shelter the site. Make sure there is a water source nearby, so that you can water the area regularly until the plants are well established.

Soil Preparation: Prepare the soil by removing lawn or other plant cover and raking the soil. If the soil contains a lot of clay or sand, add compost to enrich it.


The more plants the better, but you don’t have to plant a huge area to help monarchs. An area of 100 square feet works well. Don’t worry if you don’t have that much space, though, even a few patio pots containing native flowers and milkweed can provide a welcome pit stop for a hungry monarch. Pollinator habitat can also be integrated with an existing vegetable or flower garden.


What to Plant

Milkweed is the monarch’s host plant, and thus it is a must for a monarch garden. Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweeds and this is the only type of plant the caterpillars will eat. It is best to plant at least 10 milkweed plants of two or more species per 100 square feet. Remember monarch caterpillars eat milkweed so your milkweed might be eaten down to just a stem. That means you made a caterpillar very happy!

Monarchs also need flower power. Monarch butterflies feed on nectar. Select a variety of flowering plants with different bloom times, so that nectar is available from March through October.

Research shows that if you get several of each plant species and plant each species in clumps, it provides for a bigger advertisement for the insects that happen by.

Native plants are best. They require the least maintenance and are also beneficial to other types of native pollinators that are in decline. Many native plants are also perennials that will come back year after year. It’s also OK to plant non-native nectar plants. Single-flowered varieties are best for butterflies.

Most importantly, only purchase plants from nurseries that do not use systemic insecticides or any other pesticides on their plants. These plants can be harmful to pollinators, including monarchs, and their caterpillars.  We will have Native Plants and non-native nectar plants available for sale that are grown without pesticides or herbicides. 

Plugs Versus Seeds: For small gardens, plant plugs (plants that have germinated and are ready for planting) for best and fastest results. In larger areas, seed mixes and milkweed seeds may be more cost-effective. Planting a combination of plugs and seeds is helpful for establishing beneficial habitat more quickly in these areas. We will have plugs and seeds available for donation outside our grant program.


How to Plant

If using plant plugs, plan your garden and prepare the soil before purchasing the plants. Group plants by color and type. Butterflies are attracted to large splashes of color, especially red, orange, yellow, and purple. Place short plants in front of tall ones.

Dig a hole just large enough for the plug’s roots. Gently break up the root ball with your fingers to help the roots grow into the surrounding soil. Use soil to cover the roots so that only the leaves and stem of the plant are above ground.

If seed is used, prepare the soil by raking it about six inches deep. Then spread the seeds manually or use a broadcaster for large areas. Add mulch to conserve moisture.


Water plants regularly until they are well established. Keep in mind that more water may be needed during hot, dry spells or if the plants appear to be drooping. Once established, native plants typically do not need additional water.

Use mulch to prevent weed growth and retain moisture. Weed manually. Remove pests by hand or by spraying with water. Do not use pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) in the area and ask your neighbors to do the same.

In late fall, clear out any blackened stems and foliage of annual flowers to prevent the possibility of their harboring disease pathogens and insect eggs over the winter. Cut back dry stems of perennials to soil level after frost to neaten the garden and remove pest eggs and disease spores that may linger.

Other Butterfly-Friendly Features

Place dirt in a shallow container and add water to make wet mud. This provides needed water and minerals for butterflies. Add water regularly to keep the dirt wet. Include a spot with dark stones or tiles for butterflies to perch on to warm up on cool mornings.


Register: Be part of the Flyway

Be sure to register the monarch habitat you created. The information you provide will be added to our Po-Go.net Monitoring System to be uploaded to statewide and nationwide databases to track habitat increases for monarchs and other pollinators. That means your garden will be part of a swath of new habitat being planted throughout the monarch’s migration and breeding range.


Are milkweeds poisonious to my pets?

Before you panic about milkweed,  learn about the hundreds of species of plants that may be in your yard right now that are poisonous. 

We've been harvesting milkweed from farms in El Dorado County that have goats and llamas. The milkweed came right out of their pens.  So far we've had no reports of dead livestock, the dogs and cats aren't interested and we haven't seen kids chewing on it. Apparently one taste is enough to deter them. Not even the deer want to eat milkweed when there is so much other tasty stuff around. 

In any case we have a letter from UC Davis explaining that California Native Americans used Milkweed as "chewing gum"... so how poisonous is milkweed?  Sugar is poisonious (meaning it can cause death) if you eat enough of it. People have been known from dying from drinking too much water. How much milkweed would your goat need to eat before falling over? Make sure your animals have plenty of their own nutritious food.  You may be surprised at how many plants that you already have in your yard that are poisonious according to the ASPCA.



About us

The Sierra Monarch and Pollinator Rescue Project is sponsored by the Wopumnes Nisenan and Mewuk of El Dorado County Heritage Preservation Society. We are a California Native American Intertribal Organization established in 2018 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation EIN 83-2671897. We are an IRS tax exempt organization and donations made are tax deductible according to the IRS. The purpose of our nonprofit is to protect and restore cultural, historic and natural sites, important to the Nisenan and Mewuk Indians, to preserve for future generations.


Why do the monarchs travel so far?

California Indians cultivated many native plants: Buckeye, Valley Oaks, Soap Root, and even the little Milkweed. The Miwoks, Nisenan and many other tribes would carry these plants from here to there and plant them around their village sites for use later.   According to a letter from Professor Jelmer Eerkens, UC Davis Dept. of Anthropology, the tribes managed the lands in California.


The illustrations below compares the Native Trade Routes (left) to the migration path of the Monarchs and birds in California and the Mid-west. Natives cultivated the pollinators' favorite plants along their trade routes. Many of these plants are also "deer attractors" bringing food to the Native doorsteps. It is not unusual to find these plants along side grinding mortars the Natives made while grinding their acorns to make their porridge.  Milkweed was used by the natives for its latex and to make cordage.  Many of these trade routes have been "disrupted" due to development destroying habitats the pollinators and monarchs were acustomed to. Imagine flying in the next season to find your "family's" favorite milkweed patch is now a house or parkinglot. Sierra Monarch Rescue's flyway will help re-establish habitats along these traditional Native and Pollinator migration routes. The historic Nisenan of El Dorado County, the Wopumnes, are sponsoring this Monarch and Pollinator Rescue project as a way to honor their native culture.  Register today to be part of the Pollinator Flyway Network.

Sierra Monarch Rescue is a gift from the Great Spirit, to unite mankind and serve the greater interest of all by teaching stewardship of this great earth. With the lightest touch of a butterfly's wing, imagination is sparked calling forth the Kingdom.


We have a number of partners we are working with:

MonarchWatch.org Learn more about Monarch Biology here


Xerces Society, xerces.org


California Native Plant Society


Placerville Garden Club


California Dept. of Food and Agriculture


Wildlife Conservation Board

What we do?


To help the Monarch Butterfly and pollinators in El Dorado County we are providing educational assistance to land managers of all types (private, farms and government properties) to build out their Monarch Waystations with indigenous El Dorado County Milkweed (narrow leaf and showy) and the El Dorado Native Plant Society is helping us with Native Nectar Plants. We are propagating indigenous milkweed now for the 2023 Spring planting.


Services we provide under our grant:

  • Technical Assistance Site Assessments to develop your Waystation Pollinator Habitat Plans
  • Implementation of Waystation Habitat Plans
  • Monitoring (long and short term) to determine effectivness of pollinator habitat installations
  • Integrated Pest Management Workshops for working farms, private and public properties
  • Outreach: School presentations, Festivals, Farmer's Markets
  • Volunteer Planting Days: Bring your class, senior group, rehab group, church, company outing, tour group, scout troup to one of our sites.  We will be having a Volunteer Planting Day at public parks, trail heads, or working farms where you can get some fresh air, make new friends and help the pollinators.
  • Site surveys for Cultural Resources Documentation


Private residents who wish to help the Monarch and other pollinators may build a Monarch Waystation in as little as 100 square feet of their property. A Waystation in your yard or farm will provide Monarch Butterflies, and other pollinators, a safe breeding ground that you can monitor and report progress of to us. Sierra Monarch Rescue will provide Technical Assistance to landmanagers to set up their butterfly garden with regionally appropriate Milkweed that we provide. We will also make recommendations for invasive species plant removal, preparaing your soil, and provide a list of companion native nectar plants that you can purchase from us, El Dorado Native Plant Society, or any nursery of your choosing.  The Technical Assistance and indeginous Milkweed plants will be paid for by our State grant and are a gift to you for helping provide shelter to the Monarch Butterfly.  You will have the option be placed on the Monarch Waystation Flyway Trail map that will later be posted on this website. Please fill out our “Butterfly Garden Interest Survey” to be added to our waiting list for the 2022-2023 migration season.


Plants will be distributed on a first come first serve basis to people who sign up on the survey.  For the 2023 season we will be distributing plants at El Dorado County Farmer's Markets and some delivery will be made for people with special needs. 


Ag in the Classroom 2023

County kids learn about ag as they flock to Farm Day (mtdemocrat.com)

Marshal Gold State Park


Partnering with the Marshal Gold State Park we are proud to be kicking-off the build out of the California Native Interpretiatve Garden and Monarch Waystation behind the Nisenan Village Oomachas this November 2022. 


Located in the upper American River watershed, the “Nisenan Village” exhibit is owned and managed by Marshal Gold State Park. The site is open year-round and is experienced by 70,000 visitors annually. The Nisenan Village built at the foot of the “Mother Rock”, a large granite outcropping the Natives used as their “kitchen”. The “Mother Rock” has over 20 deep grinding mortars showing its use by the natives for hundreds of years. In 2005 the Wopumnes Tribe built the cedar bark oomachas (bark teepees) as part of the display. In 2007, a levy broke and the American River waters rose high enough to go over the parking lot and touch the Mother Rock for a few days. 

Volunteers Planting Days, July 15, 2023, we got Milkweed to plant!

The  photo shows in Red our first habitat restoration. The yellow will be the second phase of that restoration.  November 2022, volunteers came out to help prepare the Red area by Sheet Composting and possible early planting of some plants. Many hands make little work. We got milkweed to plant in the garden. Milkweed is a traditional plant used by the Nisenan for cordiage and latex.  If you would like to help us by plants for the project go to our donate page. A one gallon plant costs $15.

Set-up: 10:30 am

Kick-off: 11am

The park will have benches, mulch and tools available. Please bring your own gloves.

If you would like to Volunteer please contact us by filling out the survey.

We like showing off our projects.

Need to talk to us?

the WPA Post Office Building

515 Main Street, Ste. A


CA 95667


+1 530 350 9191

info @ Sierra Monarch Rescue . com

How did you find us?