Small maestros of Monarch butterflies swept into a little garden at the Montana Natural History Center this month, despite a bit of drizzle.

There, an army of young gardeners helped push shovels in the dirt and place pale green plants, small and soaking up the rain, to help endangered species.

"We planted it for the butterflies," said Syvanna Sawyer, 9, of Lone Rock School, and also a fan of ladybugs, caterpillars and beetles.

Friday, May 20, was Endangered Species day, and in planting milkweed, the naturalists were ensuring some of the Monarchs' favorite food would be available in the future. In a statement, the center's Christine Morris said the day gave people a chance to reflect on the nation's commitment to its "unique wildlife heritage."

Mayor John Engen, who planned to dedicate the garden later in the day, noted it's appropriate that Missoula create the space and call attention to "important but disappearing species."

"We have a responsibility to our children and our grandchildren to be good stewards and protect imperiled species and the special habitats they need," he said in a statement.

The event came on the heels of a couple other celebrations the center has planned over the next few weeks. On Thursday, May 26, the center holds a women's luncheon, and on Wednesday, June 15, it holds a 25th anniversary celebration; go to montananaturalist.org for more information.

For Jason Agostino, 10, and Malia Gunterman, 10, the field trip seemed a success, and even the raindrops were a boon for the job at hand.

"I actually think the rain is really good because we just now planted the milkweed," Jason said.

Monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs.

The day had many highlights for them, from a tour of the museum and its bison and grizzly bear to their understanding of the special meaning of the planting in the garden.

"I enjoyed knowing that we were helping the environment, helping the butterflies," Malia said.

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Higher Education Reporter

Reporter for the Missoulian