With their distinctive black-and-orange wings patterned as precisely as stained glass, the monarch butterfly is a beloved insect in America. The sad thing is nature societies are observing huge drops in the populations of these beautiful butterflies. In 2018, the National Wildlife Federation reported a nearly 15 percent decrease of eastern monarchs overwintering in Mexico from the previous year, while the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit which organizes annual counts, estimated a 97 percent decline of western monarchs overwintering in California compared to the 1980s.

From extreme weather events to warmer temperatures, the monarch faces an array of survival challenges, but habitat loss from pesticides and urban development is especially devastating. The insect needs milkweed for laying eggs and feeding caterpillars, and particularly in cities with limited green space, those vital plants can be sparse. But now that the US is becoming aware of the plight of the monarch butterfly, more and more cities are creating monarch-friendly spaces where they can thrive.

In New York City, for instance, a “vertical meadow” has been created on the Smithsonian’s design museum. The meadow contains milkweed vines and flowering vines to feed butterflies at all stages of their life cycle as well as a protected central inner space where monarchs can procreate. New York City isn’t alone in having a specially-made garden for monarchs. In fact, over 400 monarch gardens can be found across the US in cities like Chicago and St. Louis.