Tag Archives: Showy Milkweed

The caterpillars may starve to death.

When I was planting the new milkweed species that I’d bought, I saw Monarch caterpillars on the established Showy Milkweed plant!

They are still there, three days later. But there is much less of the plant left for them to eat. I notice that this morning two have moved over to the smaller stem. (I wish I could have seen them doing that.) This milkweed is a young start that I moved across the yard from under the fig tree, where the original plant had reproduced dozens more over the years.

I transplanted it last year, close to the Narrow-Leaf Milkweed, out in the open where the Monarchs might find it. The Showy leaves are large and meaty, and they are what I fed my caterpillars four years ago, even though the eggs had been laid on the Narrow-Leaf. Meanwhile, the fig tree has grown so large, in spite of being a dwarf variety, that it is shading the Showy Milkweed out of existence over there.

Monarch among the Narrow-Leaf Milkweed plants, 2018.
Monarch caterpillar on Showy Milkweed leaf, 2018.
2018

The Narrow-Leaf Milkweed is one of the two species native to my region, which is why I planted it originally. It has the most dramatic blooms, like ladies in crowns and pink dresses dancing in formation:

… but as I have said before, there is not enough leaf matter there to make the newborn caterpillars grow big and strong and become butterflies. It was my hope that if I put the Showy type out there, the Mama Monarch would choose it. And she did! But — it is hardly bigger than the new starts I set out. From the bottom of the picture at left:

1- Asclepias physocarpa – Family Jewels.
2- aphid-infested Narrow-Leaf Milkweed
3-  Asclepias linaria – Pineneedle Milkweed
4- Showy Milkweed (top L)
5- Asclepias glaucescens – Nodding Milkweed (top R)

I know from the past, when I raised and released three butterflies, that they eat a lot. Back then I picked numerous large leaves off the Showy plant — which was huge — to feed them.

These three have already eaten half of the plant, and they have a lot more growing to do:

When I return from my trip north, I’m afraid that they will have eaten every last leaf, and then starved to death. Should I take them with me, and feed them? But feed them what? I only have two spindly Showy plants growing under the fig tree currently. What if I were to lay them on the ground under the one being eaten right now, making a path to the new starts? Do I really want them to possibly defoliate those, too, when they have barely begun? After that truly thrilling Monarch Project I undertook I decided once was enough. Bearing responsibility for caterpillars was too much work. And physically exhausting for other reasons! So… I think I will have to let nature take its course.

It might be that the smallish Showy Milkweed just wants a tiny bit more water to help Nature along, and then that course might result in this kind of Show next summer:

2021

If so, there will be plenty of food for all caterpillar comers.

“For seasonable weather and the abundance of the fruits of the earth
and for peaceful times
let us pray to the Lord.”
-Litany of Peace

A Friday in May, for May.

It’s the feast of Saints Constantine and Helen, and I was blessed to attend Liturgy, and afterward to meet a new friend there. Then a young altar server needed a ride home, and on the way I encouraged him to talk about his reading. He said that he’d read 40-odd Hardy Boys books but after about 30 realized that they were mostly the same, and getting boring. To make completely sure,  he read a few more. He is about to move up to The Hobbit.

We also talked about the fruit trees that his family has growing in their back yard. Which reminds me of my plum trees: I can report that at last sighting there were at least ten plums on my two Elephant Heart plum trees. They aren’t quite walnut sized yet.

After a warm spell, then a cold and foggy spell, then a high windy spell, the elements seem to be settling down to warm springiness. In the family of bees, this year I mostly have Yellow-Faced Bumblebees everywhere. They are, as last year, hard to photograph not only because of their buzziness, but because they are so heavy that when they light on a flower, it starts rocking and waving erratically from the weight. I did get one photo that is an improvement from last year.

Only a week after I yanked out the old snow-pea vines from October, I  picked a couple of pods from the new batch planted the last day of February. They are the same Green Beauty variety. I might rename them Giant Sweet Green Beauty, from their being substantial in every category.

The Cinderella (Rouge V’if D’Etampes) pumpkins I started in the greenhouse already have little fruits on them! As do the summer squashes.

Also from the greenhouse is the most spindly chamomile, and ground (hugging) cherries:

The Jerusalem Sage flowers don’t give up their nectar without a great effort from the bees, who burrow down inside and make the whole flower vibrate for a long minute or two while they finish their work and are backing out again.

The peskiest “weed” I have is Showy Milkweed, which has grown a whole forest of progeny under the fig tree. A few of the starts have willingly taken to be transplanted to this pot, but most break off when I try to move them, and I have temporarily given up trying.

The Showy Milkweed is aptly named. If any of you lives close to me and wants the pot of starts, here’s a picture of it in bloom:

My friend May has been teaching me about plants and sharing her love for gardening with me for about 40 years now. I remember the first time she noticed that I didn’t know what to do with my basil plants, and she offered to snip the leaves (and use them) to keep them growing. Today she celebrates her name day. So I dedicate this post and the beauty of my garden world to YOU, May! God bless you, and may the prayers of St. Helen help to prosper us in our gardening.