Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monarchs & Milkweed
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...
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.
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.