Every summer without fail, milkweed plants sprout from the sand and soil, buttressed against ocean winds by a white retaining wall at the corner of Sea View Avenue and Nantucket Avenue on Waban/Alley Park in Oak Bluffs. And every summer, without fail — usually on the eve of the fireworks display in August — the milkweed there and in other public spaces in Oak Bluffs are mowed down. This year, I wrote an email to parks department commissioner Amy Billings, asking for a reprieve for the plants from their annual plight. A day after sending my letter, the milkweed in question — or, in historical terms, a full month earlier than usual — were gone. I can’t say whether that missive led to their early demise — I hope it did not — but I will repeat my plea here on behalf of the milkweed plants and the monarch butterflies that rely on them exclusively to lay their eggs and upon which monarch caterpillars feed.

Monarch butterfly numbers have plummeted in recent years due to habitat loss, weather changes, herbicide tolerant crops, and an increase in corn and soy production; to boost profits, farmers axe hedgerows and plow grasslands, destroying milkweed habitat. Since 2008, over 24 million acres of beneficial monarch habitat has been lost, according to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary director Suzan Bellincampi — an area equal in size to the state of Indiana.

But we humans can help these magnificent creatures if we choose, and doing so won’t require committing outsize acts of heroism. Plant milkweed, Ms. Bellincampi has urged in her columns in the Gazette.

Six varieties of milkweed are native to the Island but are not immune to the ravages of roadside mowing and habitat loss. Revising current roadside management could provide millions of acres of habitat for milkweed plants and monarchs across the country. The Monarch Joint Venture Conservation Organization writes that roadsides in the United States are routinely sprayed or mowed during prime milkweed growing season. “If transformed into a native plant community, they could require significantly less maintenance once established while providing important habitat,” the orgnization writes. Just think: fewer chemicals in our soil, more plants, and more butterflies and other pollinator species to delight our senses.

Every plant saved is a move toward ensuring these beautiful animals are around for future generations to enjoy. And milkweeds are resilient plants that need little tending and will return each spring. If we let them.

Perhaps next summer, we’ll see milkweed plants thriving on the corner of Sea View and Nantucket avenue. Perhaps readers of this paper may include a few milkweed plants in their gardens as well.

Barbara Basbanes Richter

Oak Bluffs