Milkweed and Monarchs

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico. Agricultural intensification, development of rural lands, and the use of mowing and herbicides to control roadside vegetation have all reduced the abundance of milkweeds in the landscape.

Xerces Society,

As we were choosing plants to add to Millie’s butterfly garden last year, we wanted to add milkweed, since it is essential to monarchs and also attracts other pollinators. We tried two different ways to add milkweed to our garden. We were given seeds of Asclepius tuberosa, which never took root, and we also transplanted milkweed roots, which were more successful.

The milkweed that we transplanted last year has multiplied in some places, and originally I had thought it grew and spread through its root system. However, we transplanted in two different areas. The area where there are more milkweed plants this year is the area where we had our one milkweed flower of the year. It seems that Mother Nature, again, has proven the best gardener, and that these new plants are from the seeds from last year’s milkweed pod. Once established milkweed will come back again, and it is mentioned online that Common Milkweed spreads easily and takes over garden spaces. I am not sure which milkweed we have – time and patience will tell.

We first noticed milkweed emerging about a month ago, and now every day we are out, looking in the garden to see if we have any new sprouts. We’ve recently even seen buds forming, and are hoping for more flowers this year.

We’ve transplanted a few more plants this season, and ever since watching the video below, we’ve been looking for monarch eggs. If you have seven minutes, this is such an amazing video clip to watch and helped us learn more about Monarchs and their life cycle.

We think we’ve seen a couple, and we also found milkweed beetle eggs (red). Mon Cœur (MC) enjoys looking for eggs, and splaying “I Spy” in the milkweed.

As we have been working with milkweed, I have found the websites below to provide great insight about the plant and its importance within the monarch butterflies’ lifecycle.

All about milkweed

Xerces Society

Seven Helpful Tips to Buy Milkweed

Have you spotted any monarchs or milkweed yet this season?

On a side note, I was recently featured in a series “What is Motherhood After Loss,” on the blog The Morning. This has been a great community for me, and Ashlee’s thoughtfully curated blog posts and podcasts not only bring me comfort, and hope, they also remind me that I am not alone.

For previous garden updates, check out the links below:

  • You can read about four new perennials in the garden here;
  • Our butterfly bush propagation experiment here;
  • Maintenance projects in the garden here;
  • Three early spring addition to Millie’s garden here;
  • Early spring updates here;
  • Summer updates here;
  • Spring and summer additions here;
  • Our nursery haul here;
  • December additions here;
  • Fall additions here;
  • The end of week one progress here;
  • Check out the grotto in progress here;
  • Read about the chopping of our cherry tree here;
  • and see what we started with in our before pictures here.


One thought on “Milkweed and Monarchs

  1. Pingback: On Cycles

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