The Trust for Gov­er­nors Island Announces Year of Milk­weed’ Initiative


Photo by Sarma Ozols

The Trust for Gov­er­nors Island has dubbed 2024 as the Year of Milk­weed,” a year­long ini­tia­tive that will engage New York­ers with pro­grams that will high­light the pow­er of native plants in the fight against bio­di­ver­si­ty loss. Pre­sent­ed through Gov­er­nors Island Nature, the ini­tia­tive will shine a light on the hor­ti­cul­ture prac­tices that have helped trans­form this for­mer mil­i­tary out­post into a resilient, immer­sive, thriv­ing locale for plants, wildlife, and New York­ers alike.

Events announced today include guid­ed nature walks, night­time insect ecol­o­gy events, and vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties in part­ner­ship with the Friends of Gov­er­nors Island — where par­tic­i­pants of all ages can help prop­a­gate milk­weed plants and learn about their ben­e­fits — in addi­tion to oth­er hor­ti­cul­tur­al hap­pen­ings to hon­or this vibrant plant. The Trust will also unveil a new demon­stra­tion gar­den in Liggett Ter­race this sum­mer, which will fea­ture 750 indi­vid­ual milk­weed plants and be open year-round for edu­ca­tion and relax­ation. All event details are avail­able at www​.gov​is​land​.org.

It’s the Year of Milk­weed on Gov­er­nors Island, and we couldn’t be more excit­ed to shine a light on the incred­i­ble work our team does to care for the Island’s diverse nat­ur­al areas,” said Clare New­man, Pres­i­dent & CEO of the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island. Our com­mit­ment to 5,000 plants is designed to edu­cate and direct­ly involve Island vis­i­tors in grow­ing native habi­tats and empow­er all New York­ers to help cre­ate a green­er, health­i­er city for all.”

Milk­weed is such a spe­cial plant, and we can’t wait for it to find a home in the imag­i­na­tion of all New York­ers this year,” said Leo Framp­ton, senior gar­den­er at the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island. Its part­ner­ship with Monarch but­ter­flies shows that, by find­ing a place for native plants, any­one can help our envi­ron­ment recov­er. Whether you have plants at home, par­tic­i­pate in your neighborhood’s com­mu­ni­ty gar­den, or have nev­er even heard of a native plant, we hope you’ll join us on Gov­er­nors Island to cel­e­brate the Year of Milkweed.”

Year of Milk­weed Spring/​Summer Event Schedule

  • Guid­ed nature walks explor­ing rela­tion­ship between native plants and wildlife: May 30, June 27, July 25, August 29, Sep­tem­ber 26, Octo­ber 31, Novem­ber 21
  • Insect Light Trap­ping: May 14, June 11, July 16, July 23, August 13, Sep­tem­ber 10
  • Monarch Migra­tion com­mu­ni­ty cel­e­bra­tion: Sep­tem­ber 14

Since the Island’s 43-acre, award-win­ning park was com­plet­ed in 2016, the Trust’s hor­ti­cul­ture team has helped cul­ti­vate these areas as robust native habi­tats through eco­log­i­cal hor­ti­cul­ture — a prac­tice that pri­or­i­tizes bio­di­ver­si­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty. The Year of Milk­weed ini­tia­tive marks the first major effort to direct­ly involve all New York­ers in the Trust’s habi­tat cre­ation work. 

The Hills, the crown­ing fea­ture of the Island’s park designed by West 8, show­case the poten­tial for urban spaces to build back bio­di­ver­si­ty. While the orig­i­nal plant­i­ngs — many of which were native to the New York City region — worked to estab­lish them­selves short­ly after the park’s com­ple­tion, eco­log­i­cal­ly dam­ag­ing plants like mug­wort and bindweed invad­ed. Through inno­v­a­tive and exper­i­men­tal meth­ods of weed con­trol like solar­iza­tion, where areas full of inva­sive plants are cov­ered with a clear plas­tic tarp to har­ness solar pow­er to cook the roots and seeds, the Trust’s hor­ti­cul­tur­al team has suc­cess­ful­ly elim­i­nat­ed inva­sive plants in more than 5,000 square feet through­out the Hills and intro­duced 52 plants native to the New York City region, ben­e­fit­ing pol­li­na­tors and oth­er local wildlife.

Plant­i­ng efforts as part of the Year of Milk­weed will focus on three species native to New York City’s eco-region: Ascle­pias tuberosa (but­ter­fly weed, select­ed as WildflowerNYC’s 2023 New York City Wild­flower of the Year), Ascle­pias syr­i­a­ca (com­mon milk­weed), and Ascelpias incar­na­ta (swamp milk­weed). They will be plant­ed through­out the Island’s 120 acres of open space, with a focus on Ham­mock Grove, the Hills, and the Gov­er­nors Island His­toric Dis­trict, in addi­tion to the new demon­stra­tion gar­den in Liggett Ter­race — an area on the Island known for its land­scaped gar­dens, water fea­tures, and sea­son­al food vendors.

These plants were care­ful­ly cho­sen for the ben­e­fits they pro­vide to monarch but­ter­flies, whose cater­pil­lar lar­vae feed exclu­sive­ly on milk­weed leaves. With their strik­ing orange and black wings, East­ern mon­archs are abun­dant on Gov­er­nors Island dur­ing their migra­tion in late sum­mer and fall, but their pop­u­la­tions have been expe­ri­enc­ing sig­nif­i­cant decline through­out the Unit­ed States over the past sev­er­al years; the Xerx­es Soci­ety for Inver­te­brate Con­ser­va­tion reports an 80% decline in East­ern monarch pop­u­la­tions. Inte­grat­ing this vol­ume of milk­weed plants into Gov­er­nors Island’s green spaces will allow mon­archs to safe­ly com­plete their life cycles while increas­ing native plant habi­tats for all Island wildlife. 

The Year of Milk­weed is pre­sent­ed through the Trust’s Gov­er­nors Island Nature pro­gram, which fos­ters vis­i­tor engage­ment with Gov­er­nors Island’s 120 acres of nat­ur­al and built open spaces and pro­motes hor­ti­cul­ture prac­tices employed by the Trust’s team that sup­port bio­di­ver­si­ty. Through learn­ing, pub­lic pro­grams, and stew­ard­ship projects, Gov­er­nors Island Nature aims to edu­cate New York­ers about hor­ti­cul­ture and the impacts of cli­mate change on our nat­ur­al sur­round­ings, while pro­mot­ing Gov­er­nors Island as a sanc­tu­ary for all beings. In-per­son events and activ­i­ties are accom­pa­nied by a suite of dig­i­tal resources at www​.gov​is​land​.org/​n​ature that includes an inter­ac­tive tree map, a Plant Watch” page, and more.

Gov­er­nors Island has under­gone a tremen­dous trans­for­ma­tion over the last two decades, includ­ing the cre­ation of a resilient 43-acre park, a grow­ing arts and cul­tur­al pro­gram, year-round pub­lic access, and remark­able growth in audi­ence. The Island is home to a diverse num­ber of year-round ten­ants, includ­ing the Urban Assem­bly New York Har­bor School, Low­er Man­hat­tan Cul­tur­al Coun­cil, Bil­lion Oys­ter Project, Beam Cen­ter, the Insti­tute for Pub­lic Archi­tec­ture, and QC NY, as well as the soon-to-open But­ter­milk Labs — a new mul­ti-ten­ant hub for coastal cli­mate solutions.

In April 2023, fol­low­ing a two-year com­pet­i­tive process, May­or Eric Adams and the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island announced the selec­tion of a new anchor insti­tu­tion for the Cen­ter for Cli­mate Solu­tions on Gov­er­nors Island. The New York Cli­mate Exchange, led by Stony Brook Uni­ver­si­ty, will be a first-of-its-kind, cross-sec­tor non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to cli­mate research, solu­tion devel­op­ment, edu­ca­tion, work­force train­ing, and pub­lic pro­grams on Gov­er­nors Island. The Trust also recent­ly announced the Gov­er­nors Island Liv­ing Lab, a new plat­form for research, part­ner­ships, and pro­grams to ampli­fy cli­mate action that includes an annu­al cli­mate solu­tions chal­lenge open to non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions, entre­pre­neurs, and start-ups; the launch of cli­mate field trip pro­grams; and an inter­im com­mu­ni­ty con­ven­ing space on the Island. 


About the Trust for Gov­er­nors Island

The Trust for Gov­er­nors Island is the non­prof­it cor­po­ra­tion cre­at­ed by the City of New York that is respon­si­ble for the rede­vel­op­ment and oper­a­tion of 150 acres of Gov­er­nors Island. The Trust’s mis­sion is to real­ize the full poten­tial of Gov­er­nors Island for the inspi­ra­tion and enjoy­ment of all New York­ers, demon­strat­ing a bold vision for pub­lic space. For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it www​.gov​is​land​.org