Project Overview:

Nectar Connectors Campaign badge with monarchs and cone flowers in a field

We are seeking observers to learn about the flowering timing of nectar sources for monarchs and other pollinators! Pollinators are an essential part of our environment - they ensure the reproduction of 85% of the world's flowering plants, and over two-thirds of our crop species. Many threats, including habitat loss and use of pesticides, threaten these pollinators.

One of the best-known butterlfies in North America is the monarch butterfly. Monarchs are renowned for their complex life cycle, which takes them on the longest-known migration distance for insects. 

Due to this complex, long-distance migration, the dietary needs of monarchs are complex. The nectar that they rely on to fuel their flight comes from a diverse suite of flowering species that occur across a large geographic area. Changes to these food sources, through habitat loss, pesticide use, or climate change, can be costly to monarch populations, as well as to the many other pollinators that rely on these same species for their dietary needs.

See what we learned from this campaign in 2023. 

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You can learn about these important nectar sources for monarchs and other pollinators by observing flowering of nectar plants in your own backyard, a nearby park, or other location you frequent! Your reports will help resource managers like the US Fish and Wildlife Service to better understand where and when nectar sources are available for monarchs and other pollinators across the United States so that they can take necessary steps to conserve and promote habitat for these pollinators.

The campaign focuses on 53 species of nectar plants in 16 genera. These species have been identified as important nectar sources for monarchs and other pollinators by the Xerces SocietyMonarch Watch, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Audubon Society's Hummingbirds at Home and Plants for Birds programs, and the Community Greenways Collaborative. These genera include:

  • Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)
  • Blazing stars (Liatris spp.)
  • Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)
  • Goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum)
  • Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
  • Lupines (Lupinus spp.)
  • Bee balm/bergamot (Monarda spp.)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
  • Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)
  • Prairie clovers (Dalea spp.)
  • Thistles (Cirsium spp.)
  • Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
  • Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)
  • Baccharis (Baccharis halimifolia)
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

See the full list of species by searching The Plants and Animals page, filtering for the Nectar Connectors Campaign under Plant Type. 


1. Join Nature's Notebook. If you haven't already, create a Nature's Notebook account. If you need more details on getting started, take our Observer Certification Course at 

2. Select one (or more) species to track from the list of species below. To see which species are available in your state, go to The Plants and Animals page, and filter for your state and Nectar Connectors Campaign (under Plant Type). 

3. Take observations. We invite you to track leaf out in your plants ideally 2-4 times a week in the summer and fall when plants are flowering. We are especially interested in flowering phenophases, though you are welcome to report on leafing and fruiting as well.

4. Report your observations. As you collect data during the season, log in to your Nature's Notebook account and enter the observation data you recorded. You can also use our Nature's Notebook app to submit your observations! 

EARN YOUR Nectar Connectors BADGE

You can earn this badge by making six observations of one target Nectar Connectors species within the same year. See it on your Observation Deck.

See it on your Observation Deck.

Nectar Connectors Campaign badge

Species that are part of the Nectar Connectors campaign:

Download phenophase photo guides to help you with identiying flowering of a subset of these species, available on the New York Phenology Project website

Blazing stars:

Liatris aspera, Photo: Larry Allain, National Wetlands Research Center, USGS, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Liatris_elegans, Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Liatris_spicata, Photo: Paul Drobot @ University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
tall blazing star (Liatris aspera) pinkscale blazing star (Liatris elegans) dense blazing star (Liatris spicata) 


Symphyotrichum_ericoides, Photo: Jennifer Anderson. United States, IA, Scott Co., Davenport, Nahant Marsh. 2001, @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Symphyotrichum_novae-angliae, Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry Archive,
white heath aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)



Solidago missouriensis, Photo: Larry Allain, National Wetlands Research Center, USGS, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Solidago_rugosa, Photo: Abraham Miller-Rushing Solidago_sempervirens, Photo: Siveira via Wikimedia Commons Solidago_stricta, Photo: 2006 Matt Below @ CalPhotos Solidago_uliginosa, Photo: Eric J. Epstein @ University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
Missouri goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis) wrinkleleaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) wand goldenrod (Solidago stricta) bog goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa)



Lupinus_arcticus, Photo: 2011 Vernon Smith @ CalPhotos Lupinus_latifolius, Photo: Walter Siegmund via Wikimedia Commons Lupinus_obtusilobus, Photo: 2010 Jean Pawek
arctic lupine (Lupinus arcticus) broadleaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius) bluntlobe lupine (Lupinus obtusilobus)
Lupinus_perennis, Photo: William S. Justice, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Dept. of Systematic Biology, Botany. Lupinus_sparsiflorus, Photo: John Riley via Wikimedia Commons Lupinus_polyphyllus, Photo: Gary A. Monroe, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) Coulter's lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) bigleaf lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus)


Bee balm/bergamot:

Monarda_didyma, Photo: Nells Wiki via Wikimedia Commons Monarda_fistulosa, Photo: Merel R. Black @ University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)



Cirsium_arvense, Photo: T.F. Niehaus. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Dept. of Systematic Biology, Botany Cirsium_occidentale, Photo: Wing-Chi Poon via Wikimedia Commons Cirsium_vulgare_Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) cobwebby thistle (Cirsium occidentale) bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)


Joe Pye Weeds:

Eutrochium_maculatum, Photo: TIFFANYLAUFER via Wikimedia Commons Eutrochium_fistulosum, Photo: 2014 Richard Spellenberg. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) License
spotted joe pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum) trumpetweed (Eutrochium fistulosum)



Asclepias_asperula, Photo: Patrick J. Alexander, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Asclepias_cordifolia, Photo: First Light at en.wikipedia (via Wikimedia Commons) Asclepias_curassavica, Photo: Anita Gould via
spider milkweed (Asclepias asperula) heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica)*
Asclepias_eriocarpa, Photo: 2011 Robert A. Hamilton. Asclepias_exaltata, Photo: Dr. John Hilty via EOL. License Asclepias_fascicularis, Photo: randomtruth via
woollypod milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa) poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) Mexican whorled milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
 Asclepias_humistrata, Photo: Patrick Coin via Asclepias_incarnata, Photo: R.A. Howard, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Asclepias_lanceolata, Photo: Eleanor via Flickr.
pinewoods milkweed (Asclepias humistrata)  swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)  fewflower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata) 
Asclepias_latifolia, Photo: Jerry Oldenettel via Asclepias_linaria, Photo: 2013 Wynn Anderson. Creative Commons Asclepias_pedicellata, Photo: Mary Keim via
broadleaf milkweed (Asclepias latifolia) pineneedle milkweed (Asclepias linaria) savannah milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata)
Asclepias_perennis, Photo: Dr. John Hilty via EOL. License Asclepias_purpurascens, Photo: Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Asclepias_speciosa, Photo: Robert Tatina, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database USDA SCS. 1989
aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Asclepias_subulata, Photo: Steven Perkins @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database Asclepias_subverticillata, Photo: Carlos Velazco via Asclepias_sullivanti, Photo: Larry Allain, National Wetlands Research Center, USGS USDA Plants
rush milkweed (Asclepias subulata) horsetail milkweed (Asclepias subverticillata)  prairie milkweed (Asclepias sullivanti)
Asclepias syriaca, Photo: Jason Hollinger via Wikimedia commons Asclepias tuberosa, Photo: William S Justice Asclepias_verticillata, Photo: Frank Mayfield via EOL. License
common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
Asclepias_viridis, Photo: T.F. Niehaus. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, Dept. of Systematic Biology, Botany
green antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis)

*Note that this species is considered invasive in some locations


Coreopsis_lanceolata, Photo: stelleri5 via Rudbeckia_hirta_Chris Evans, University of Illinois, - Copy Echinacea_purpurea, Photo: John J. Mosesso, National Biological Information Infrastructure Digital Image Library
Lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Helianthus_annuus, Photo:Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis, Dalea_purpurea, Photo Kitty Kohout @ University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point Lobelia_cardinalis: Photo: John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University,
common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Zizia_aurea, Photo: Fritzflohrreynolds via Wikimedia Commons Baccharis halimifolia, Photo: Sue Wilder
golden zizia (Zizia aurea) eastern baccharis (Baccharis halimifolia)
Common buttonbush, Photo: Jim Stasz, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database  
common buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)  



To see which species are available in your state, go to The Plants and Animals page, and filter for your state and Nectar Connectors Campaign (under Plant Type).