Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monarchs & Milkweed

Tropical Milkweed
Monarch Butterflies love this stuff!

The first of my seedlings have sprouted, tiny green shoots poking out of the soil in my sunny window. Ah... spring, exhilarating spring... It's been a long time since I've experienced one. Years!

That's because spring doesn't really happen in the mountains. We go from snowstorms to summer in the span of a week or two. Massive melts, knee deep mud...

Swamp Milkweed
(What an awful name for such a pretty perennial.)

This, of course, is why I'm a passionate seed planter. Growing in my sunny window are two kinds of Milkweed.

I'm hopeful they will thrive and flower in containers on the deck - because wouldn't this be cool!?! Watching Monarch Butterflies flit around me while I'm sitting on my arse, postponing another weeding session!

Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on Milkweed. These are two varieties recommended by a real pro, my Aunt Jan.

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, is hardy to zone 3 though it needs a lot of moisture to thrive (hence my container planting.) Great for egg-laying and nectar.

Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, serves as a gourmet meal for monarch caterpillars. Plant as an annual.

Smart Cookies:
Why Milkweed? The plant has a substance (cardenolides) that, when eaten, makes Monarchs taste downright awful, saving them from hungry birds.

* Some varieties of Milkweed, especially Common Milkweed, can be invasive in the garden.


thismngardener said...

With our (ok mostly MY) obsession with raising butterflies last summer, we found some milkweed seeds and I tried popping them in the ground late last summer. This way we could nourish our own little "colony."
I'm thinking it is the swamp milkweed variety. We could try the annual that you mention, will look for it. Otherwise we can always just traipse to the park to look for eggs and then to feed the little critters--like we did last year.

Wunx~ said...

My favorite is Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa, in its original wild orange coloration. All I've got in my garden is Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed. Ah well, the butterflies like it even if it is common. It has really cool seed pods, so I guess I like it too.