Friday, April 4, 2014

Plant Profile-Native Milkweed



Today we are continuing our focus on Florida-friendly plants.  
This is a favorite of many a gardener.

Native Milkweed




This workhorse provides beauty for the gardener,
as well as a home for some fascinating critters.





Its flowers attract butterflies and pollinators alike.
Once established, it is drought tolerant
and does well with minimal care.



The blooms add a pleasant pop of color in the garden nearly year-round.
While it does best in full sun,
it tolerates partial shade just fine.




These cuties thrive on milkweed.
It is the host plant for the monarch caterpillar.




It's important to plant native milkweed.
There are over 2,000 native species of this plant in North America alone,
although less than 30 are used as host plants by monarchs.
You can find a great explanation of the varieties here.




The seed pods will open and, with the help of a gentle breeze,
distribute seeds in other parts of the garden.
This plant is easily germinated, so feel free to share the goodness!




The milkweed is used by the monarch butterfly to lay its eggs.
When the caterpillars emerge from the eggs,
they feed on the leaves of the plant.
As they grow, they shed their skin.




 

Then, they form this spectacular chrysalis
in which to reinvent themselves.




A week to 10 days later,
it looks like this.



Voila!





It's an amazing sight to behold.
We will soon be spying many more monarchs,
as the temperatures climb into the 80's on a regular basis.

We plan to give caterpillars away again on Craig's List,
something we started doing last year.
It's wonderful to see the fascination in the eyes of the folks who come to retrieve them.
We explain the life cycle and send them off with
their own nature study in hand.
This year, we may have starter plants to give them as well. 
We are happy to provide this opportunity for learning.

"By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn."
-Proverb


Want to be part of this intriguing process?
You can find a list of native milkweeds by state here.





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