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Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Magnificent Monarch on Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Just one really neat sight I saw this weekend was the monarch sipping nectar from the milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterflies which serves a very important role in the life of the fluttering favorites of backyard butterflies. Milkweed contains a chemical called glycosides which get consumed by the monarch caterpillars (see more here on milkweed). When they grow up this chemical makes the butterflies poisonous to birds and other predators - essentially the milkweed plant becomes a natural defense mechanism.


This milkweed was not on the slope of my wild area but at my wife's parent's house on the outskirts of their woodland. Once the flowers turn into seed pods I'll collect them to plant in our natural areas and try to help these magnificent monarchs along!

6 comments :

  1. There is something about butterflies that makes me smile!

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  2. Good for you to have the camera nearby! My milkweeds are just blooming - hope the monarchs show up again!

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  3. I'm so glad to see a Monarch show up there. Not a one here, so far. I'm getting very concerned.

    My swamp milkweed is starting to bloom, so I hope to have seeds again this year...want to trade some syriaca seeds for incarnata (pink)?

    Cameron

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  4. MeemsNYC,

    You bet there is!

    Cyndy,

    I actually had to run back into the house to get the camera before the monarch flew off! I got there just in time, butterflies are flighty creatures!

    Tina,

    I thought so!

    Cameron,

    I'm sure they'll be along soon. I've seen quite a few around here in our yard and in other places. I'll take you up on that seed trade as long as I can get there before they release completely!

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  5. Thanks Dave, you really brought me back a few years with this blog. As a child I remember being facinated with Monarch butterflies. I love to put them in a jar along with a fresh supply of milkweed leaves and then watch them form a chrysalis and then hatch. I can't say how many kids did this for show-and-tell. What I never knew until now though is that the chemical in milkweed made them poisoness; just goes to show, I'm never done learning.

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