Supporting Pollinator Habitats and Planting Milkweed
Project Orange and Black
A growing focus among electric utilities, pipeline companies and other large landowners is implementing land management practices that are friendlier to pollinator species, including the monarch butterfly species, which is experiencing a dramatic decline.
Natural resource agencies, conservation nonprofit organizations and private citizens are working to create pollinator habitats and plant milkweed to support monarch reproduction along migration routes. Plant and seed source limitations for native milkweed varieties are a challenge in many areas, including the Texas Gulf Coast. Local nurseries only offer only exotic varieties, and land managers and conservationists strongly prefer native plants to support long-term ecosystem health and monarch conservation.
Project Orange and Black is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, CenterPoint Energy and NRG Energy that is developing techniques to propagate three local varieties of milkweed.
Through Project Orange and Black, the partners have distributed 7,000 seedlings for planting at local sanctuaries, refuges, conservation lands and residences. The project has been successful in harvesting seeds from local roadsides, rights-of-way and refuges and growing seedlings for easy transplant.
Since 2019, CenterPoint Energy has been distributing milkweed seedlings to residential customers as part of its Right Tree Right Place program, which provides height-appropriate shrubs and plants to customers to replace trees that have been removed for proper electric distribution line clearance.
In 2021, CenterPoint Energy’s Vegetation Management personnel and Trees for Houston hosted a native plant giveaway for the public at an Earth Day celebration held at Evelyn’s Park Conservancy. Our Senior Forester distributed 500 native tree seedlings and a number of milkweed plants cultivated as part of Project Orange and Black. The milkweed giveaway provided an outstanding educational opportunity to help community members understand the link between milkweed and the plight of the monarch butterfly.
CenterPoint Energy and Trees for Houston contribute greatly to enhancing the urban environment by creating habitat for pollinators and birds, as well as providing the air quality and carbon capture benefits that native plant cultivation provides.