Micke Grove Zoo

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Micke Grove Zoo’s Monarch Way Station Project

Over the past years, Micke Grove Zoo (MGZ) has played an integral role in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) organized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) - for example the zoo’s golden lion tamarin SSP partnership increased their regional captive population by 10%. The zoos breeding track record has also been immensely successful with other threatened exotic wildlife such as the northern bald ibises, marbled teal ducks, southern pudu, western pond turtles. MGZ is seeking to expand its conservation goals to include an in-situ conservation program that will to conserve threatened monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus ssp. plexippus and valley oak trees, Quercus lobata which are locally threatened.


Goals Pollinator Garden project

  • To conserve threatened migratory monarch butterflies by providing them with pollinator garden habitats

  • throughout the zoo, where they can breed, feed, and rest - a monarch waystation

  • To conduct education programs on threatened migratory monarch butterflies for local communities to motivate them to start pollinator gardens in their backyards for monarchs

  • To train students and volunteers to gain experience in planting a pollinator garden aimed at conserving monarch butterflies

  • To practice water-wise gardening techniques and to plant native drought-resistant plants and wildflowers to provide feeding and breeding habitats for other threatened native insects

Celestial blue sage, Salvia apiana x clevelandii

California poppy, Eschschlozia californica

The Monarch Waystation Project was launched in the fall of 2023 by breaking ground for the pollinator
garden. An area near the Zoo entrance was selected. At least three types of native milkweed species and 10
types drought resistant California native wildflower species that provide feeding and breeding habitats for
monarchs. The area was measured and mapped, and a drift map and planting list were

The following CA native pollinator plants were sourced from Las Pilitas nursery: 

  • Salvia apiana x clevelandii
  • Salvia clevelandii
  • Zauschneria californica
  • Penstemon pseudospectabilis 
  • Asclepias fascicularis
  • Asclepias eriocarpa
  • Asclepias speciosa
  • Sambucus spp. 

Apart from these plants, seedballs, and guerrilla droppings of the following CA native
wildflower species were bought from Seedballs.com:

  • Gaillardia pulchella
  • Eschschlozia californica
  • Helianthus annuus
  • Rudbeckia hirta 
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Helenium autumnale
  • Achillea millefolium 
  • Asclepias fascicularis
  • Asclepias eriocarpa
  • Asclepias speciosa 

MGZ volunteers were involved in the project execution and were instrumental in: 1) measuring and mapping the area, 2) preparing the area for planting, 3) gridding the area according to drift map plant locations, 4) Preparing pits for plants and broadcasting the seedballs. 5) Younger volunteers were trained to crush and scatter guerrilla droppings in specific drift locations.6) placing large stone pebbles around native plants to promote growth


Research advised us to create drifts of native annual and perennial wildflowers that are popular with the migratory monarch. Drift planting is the use of just a few species but massed in groupings. It often follows a color scheme, but may also be developed from a variety of sizes and flower types. Key is the use of at least 3 of each species. Planting 3 or more of a type creates a natural setting that attracts pollinators. Planting in drifts is one way of encouraging pollinators such as butterflies, and bees to use a pollinator garden. Many pollinators seek food from plants from the same species. When many plants of the same species are planted together, pollinators can more readily spot their favorite food sources.