I have been planning this page for several months. I was introduced to the lowly milkweed plant last fall during our fall cleanup day at the demonstration garden. I had never seen them up close, just from a distance when the pods had opened to release the seeds. This I usually observed from a car window while taking a ride in the country with my parents many decades ago.
I was shown that if you tear the leaf, a white, milky liquid seeps out of the leaf. This liquid is poisonous to most insects and birds. Just a few insects feed off this plant. It is also one of the few host plants for the Monarch Butterfly larvae and eggs. Interestingly enough, these insects all have similar coloring. Very bright orange and black markings to alert predators to leave them alone, as they will be toxic to eat. There is another butterfly with similar markings that is not poisonous to birds. The Viceroy Butterfly does not eat the milkweed, but the birds will steer clear because they mimic the Monarch so closely.
|milkweed bugs working on making more milkweed bugs|
Milk weed is a perennial, a Maryland native, and crucial to the survival of the Monarch Butterfly. I was so surprised by how pretty the flowers were up close and how sweet the scent of the flower is. The Monarch will lay her eggs on a milkweed leaf. When the eggs hatch, the larvae hang around and eat the leaves. This is their only food source at this stage.
Below is an early spring picture of our Master Gardener Demonstration Garden on Montevue Lane.
|milkweed plants have the larger oval leaves. Check out plant at 9:00|
|a group of milkweed at the MG Demonstration Garden|
|milkweed flower - Asclepias syriaca - Common Milkweed|
|information sign at Brookside|
|The small, round, cream color dots are Monarch eggs|
|caterpillar attached and starting chrysalis stage|
|chrysalis - you can see the outline of his wings!|
|when the chrysalis turns black, the butterfly is almost ready to emerge|
|would not cooperate and open wings fully|
|butterfly weed - Asclepias turberosa|
getting ready to release seeds
Below is a plant I found on my farm. I didn't see him at the time, but if you look hard, in the upper third of the picture slightly right of center, you can see the stripes of the monarch caterpillar attached to the underside of a leaf. I can't believe I didn't see him, I even looked!
|swamp milkweed in my boggy field by stream at farm - Asclepias incarnata|
Well, first cold day here. It is now 46 degrees at 0824. Will spend a few hours in the vegetable gardens cleaning up and removing old mulch and throwing into compost bins, and planning my fall and winter crops!