Several years ago my sister gave me this cute little gardening stake.
I’ve been gathering weed seeds this week. That’s right. And I plan to scatter them and plant rows of them around my yard for a bumper crop next summer. Specifically, I’ve been collecting milkweed seeds – to grow the Monarch butterfly caterpillar’s favorite food. Living in the flight path of these beautiful butterflies I look forward to seeing a stream of them passing over the house in the Fall but this year I only saw TWO. It appears that the Monarch population is declining at an alarming rate due in part to a decline of habitat in the Midwest, specifically the loss of milkweed, the only plant upon which they lay eggs and their larvae feed.
In a recent article in Newsweek Magazine Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity describes the plight of the Monarch. “We’re at risk of losing a symbolic backyard beauty that has been part of the childhood of every generation of Americans,” said Curry. “The 90 percent drop in the monarch’s population is a loss so staggering that in human-population terms it would be like losing every living person in the United States except those in Florida and Ohio.”
Milkweed seeds are well-equipped for dispersal but many never find a proper spot to germinate or find their way to a field or yard where they are not welcome and herbicides destroy this precious caterpillar delicacy.
I went to Monarch Watch for some advice on planting the seeds. If you want to grow some milkweed from seed, the information on their website will help you be successful so that next year there will be a bountiful crop waiting for the return Monarch migration.
The Milkweed plant’s small, beautiful, waxy flowers are pretty and the pods have lots of ornamental, decorative uses. The sap is only delectable to the Monarch caterpillar (which makes the insects UN-appetizing to predators) and other animals (DEER) leave the plants alone.
Milkweed is the perfect plant for this artist/biologist’s landscaping!