Mary Alice Monroe and the Butterfly’s Daughter

Monarch Butterflies are the only ones we know of that mimic the migrations of whales and birds.They need our help.

Mary Alice Monroe Signs her new novel The Butterfly's Daughter

We are so lucky to live in Fernandina!  So many amazing opportunities present themselves in this small, southern beach town! I first met Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times Best Seller List author, at a “Book Island Festival” event aboard a river cruise with the authors.  When I saw that she was having a book signing at Books Plus on Centre Street, I scheduled in time to go by and hear about her new book, “The Butterfly’s Daughter”.  Well, it just made my day!

I am halfway through the novel and have already planted one packet of milkweed seeds with plans to order a pound of the tiny Monarch producing seeds!!  Many of you have not heard of Mary Alice or her inspiring novels but I bet you have been under the spell of a beautiful Monarch butterfly somewhere in your childhood or along your life’s journey.  They need our help!

Mary Alice Monroe has taken the inspiration for her novels from nature and its many parallels with human nature.  In doing the research for this novel, Mary Alice had to step outside her beloved South Carolina low country and discover the “road trip” that is the unique mystery of the Monarch.  Like me, you may have heard references to the fact that the Monarch butterfly migrates from the northern areas of Canada and the US.  They are the only butterfly we know of that mimics the migrations of birds and whales.  Unlike these better known migration behaviors, the Monarch butterfly that migrates to the mountainous preserves in the Michoacan region of Mexico is not the same monarch that returns to it’s northern beginnings!  It is the fourth generation Monarch that makes the next long trek back to Mexico.  The first three generations live short lives purposed in mating and laying eggs on the milkweed plants they find along the trail back.

Each of these three generations make progress toward their northern homeland but it is the fourth generation, nicknamed the “Methuselah Generation”, that refuses to mate after morphing from its chrysalis.  Instead, this generation takes off for the sanctuary of Michoacan living as long as 6 months along the way!  They arrive there in the fall by the millions and millions.  Can you just imagine the feeling of joy generated by seeing that many Monarchs at one time in one place?  Look at this video to get a glimpse of the spectacle!

But, as with so many of our natural wonders, the Monarchs are being affected by our human projects both here and in Mexico.  Deforestation near the preserve in Michoacan is the greatest, most immediate danger to the brilliant Monarchs. That and a reduction in the milkweed growing in the US and Canada are a serious threat to this most mysterious and joyful of the butterfly population.

Because of this, part of the purpose of Mary Alice Monroe’s book and her calendar of book signings is to raise awareness of the plight of the Monarch and the simple act of joining in to save the Monarch- plant milkweed seeds!  This is the only plant the Monarch will lay eggs on and the only veggie the ravenous young catepillars eat.  Our own Reflections of Nature in Yulee has the proper type of milkweed for our area .

Or you can go to Mary Alice’s web page , click on “Conservation” and order her free milkweed seeds.  There is a wealth of information on how you can understand the Monarch and how you can get even more involved in the move to save them.

Whether you read the book or just do some research on the Monarch, you will be enriched by the time you take to re-aquaint with this beautiful mystery!

by Ange Wallace (the Travel Agency)

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