I never planned to have milkweed in my garden. I didn’t even know it was milkweed when I saw this “possible weed” growing.
I usually let plants grow if I don’t recognize them at first. I’ve been gardening for many years and this one was not just your usual every day weed. I was pleasantly surprised when it bloomed tiny pretty orange and yellow flowers. I think this first plant arrived with the wind about five years ago. I’d had random encounters with interesting striped caterpillars but it wasn’t until last year that they pretty much “invaded” my back yard. I had looked the caterpillars up three or four years ago and knew they were monarch butterflies and that they ate milkweed but I was quite surprised when I saw not one but 18 caterpillars. Last year there were only 2 mature plants. The chrysalides started appearing so I started reading about monarchs and observing. I think the first round of successfully emerged butterflies was about 21 – plenty of opportunities to learn. There were many more that hatched after those starting in late February with the last ones around late October.
I’m writing about this because I feel lucky that I had the opportunity, the monarch butterfly population had been declining to alarming levels. I learned a lot and plan to write about this bit by bit in case you want to help their numbers recover. They did last year and it seems this year there are more. The more we can do to help them, the better their chances for survival. They’re pretty incredible and beautiful up close and personal.