|Thursday Tips & Techniques: Milkweeds and Monarchs|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Thursday, 21 June 2012|
The common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) found in my home state of Vermont is one of 33 native milkweeds that are known as a host plant for the larvae of the monarch butterfly.
Most butterflies use a single plant as their food source. In the case of the monarch butterfly this host plant is one of the 23 species of native milkweeds growing in the eastern US or one of the 10 species native to the western US.
Milkweed is so important to the life cycle of the monarch butterfly that without these plants there would be no more monarch butterflies! Here's why: Adult monarchs lay their eggs in the milkweed plant. The eggs hatch into larvae or caterpillars that feed exclusively on milkweed leaves, which contain toxins that keep predators from eating the larvae and adult butterflies. After forming a chrysalis, 14 days later a monarch butterfly emerges .
Typically found growing in fields and waste places, milkweed plants are losing ground as more land becomes developed and meadows and fields make way for sterile manicured lawns. Over zealous landscape contractors often mow down milkweed plants at the edges of fields. And in some states milkweeds (even native ones) are listed a noxious weed to be eradicated at every opportunity.
So the next time you spot an errant milkweed plant in your flower garden instead of pulling it out do what my neighbor does--just leave it there and enjoy the sweet scent of the beautiful mauve and pink flower clusters. Not only will you be doing your part to help monarch butterflies continue to thrive, you will have your very own butterfly garden simply by letting nature do its thing.
Photo source: idothings.info