Tag Archives: Common Milkweed

THANKS TO A CANADIAN CHEMICAL ENGINEER, A VERMONT ACADEMIC AGRONOMIST, RISK-TAKING FARMERS, AND VISIONARY CLOTHING COMPANY FOR A FABULOUS NEW USE FOR MILKWEED

What’s old is new again!

Common Milkweed (Ascleipias syriaca) is the essential food plant for populations of the Northeastern and Atlantic coast Monarchs. During Colonial times, the silky floss found in the dried seed heads was used to stuff quilts and pillows. In the 1860s, in Salem Massachusetts, Common Milkweed silk was used as a mattress filling.

During WWII, Common Milkweed became the substitute for kapok, a soft cottony material from the kapok tree that was the preferred filling for life vests. Japan cut off the supply of kapok from Java, the main source of the material, and part of the wartime effort included children sent to fields to gather millions of pounds of Milkweed seed heads for the armed services.

 

 “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

An innovative Canadian clothing manufacturer, the Quartz Company and Altitude Sports, has created the first modern insulated jacket using milkweed silk. Hundreds of acres of Common Milkweed have been planted in Vermont and Quebec. Particularly noteworthy is that the fields of Milkweed are not harvested until after the Monarchs have left.

READ THE STORY HERE  

Milkweed Silk and Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

WWII Common Milkweed photos courtesy Google image search.

MONARCH CATERPILLAR JOINING OUR MILKWEED SEED POD DISTRIBUTION EVENT TODAY!

Patti’s Catty

While my friend Patti was collecting Milkweed pods for our event today she discovered this little Monarch caterpillar. He still has a few more stages to go through before pupating and won’t be ready to fly to Mexico for two weeks or so. I took him home and got the terrarium back out of the basement. I’ve never seen  Monarch caterpillar this late in the year but am hopeful (and excited, too!) #🦋

Patti

Patti’s Catty will be at the event today and I will be happy to answer any questions on raising Monarchs.

Captain Joe’s Dock

Sunday morning from 10:30 to noon.

Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, Gloucester.

Patti Papow Photo

LOOK WHAT PATTI PAPOWS MADE FOR SUNDAY’S MILKWEED SEED DISTRIBUTION EVENT!!

Thank you to Patti Papows for putting together these utterly charming pouches of milkweed seeds for our event tomorrow. We also have loads of milkweed pods and Joe-Pye seeds to distribute so come on down to Captain Joe’s dock Sunday morning from 10:30 to noon. We hope to see you there!Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, Gloucester.

To donate toward the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please visit the film’s website at www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com

COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH AT THE DOCK!

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp and moldy.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

WE HAVE SOME JOE-PYE SEEDS TO GIVE AWAY, TOO!!!

We are excited to share that in addition to milkweed pods, I have seeds of an especially gorgeous, and fabulous pollinator-attracting variant of Joe-Pye to share at our Milkweed Seed Pod Distribution event. 

 

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising event, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.

SUPER FUN COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS!

Monarchs Mating in a Milkweed Patch, Good Harbor Beach Dunes

Recently, Good Morning Gloucester reader John Steiger gave me a large bag filled with ripe milkweed seed pods collected from his garden. I had a total blast throwing the seed pods around on my early morning walk, tossing alongside the road where ever I thought milkweed might have a chance to take hold (which is easy as milkweed even takes root in sidewalk cracks).

I’d like to do more of this and Joe had the great idea to ask folks to make it a community project as we did several years ago with the milkweed and New England aster seeds and plant sales. He has again very generously offered the dock on Sunday morning after the podcast, between 10:30 and noon. If you have ripe milkweed seed pods in your garden, please bring them Sunday morning. Anyone who wants to distribute the seeds, stop by the dock and we’ll arm you with seed pods. I’ll also be collecting Joe-pye, goldenrod, and aster seeds later this fall when these wildflowers go to seed. If we get more folks dropping off bags of pods than wanting to distribute, that will be okay. I know tons more places that need milkweed and I will be happy to do the distributing. These are areas that probably at one time had milkweed and other wildflowers growing there, but they have been mowed over or taken over by bittersweet and phragmites. As people are learning more about the importance of wildflowers and pollinators, I am hoping the wildflowers will have a better chance of becoming reestablished.

Female Monarch Depositing Eggs on the Undersides of Milkweed Leaves

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

Milkweed is not only the Monarch caterpillar’s food plant, the florets are a very important source of nectar for myriad species of pollinators.

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.

 

Mass Audubon: A Good Year for Monarchs?

The following post was shared by my sweet friend and GMG reader Lois. Thank you so much Lois!

During the last week of August, Regional Scientist Robert Buchsbaum and several Mass Audubon naturalists and scientists took a field trip to Conway Hills Wildlife Sanctuary just west of the Connecticut River in Conway, MA. While there, they were pleasantly surprised by what they saw. Here’s Robert’s report:

“The initial goal of our exploration was to document the odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) that are present at this sanctuary. Conway Hills is a relatively new sanctuary for Mass Audubon so our records of species that occur there is still a work in progress.

While rambling through a big field in the center of the sanctuary, we couldn’t help but notice the large number of monarch butterfly caterpillars that were feasting on the milkweed plants in the field. Just about every one of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants had a Monarch caterpillar on it, busily chewing on leaves.
This was very heartening to all of us, given how scarce Monarch butterflies were last summer and the overall concern about the future of this stunning butterfly.

 

 

 

KIM SMITH POLLINATOR GARDEN PROGRAM FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC THURSDAY EVENING

Please join me Thursday evening, August 10th, at 7:00pm, at the Peabody Institute Library, South Branch. I will be giving my talk about how to create a garden to benefit a host of pollinators and screening several short films. I hope to see you there!

The day we planted blueberries, is the day the Catbirds moved in. Many species of songbirds are pollinators, too!

Painted Lady nectaring at wildflower Joe-pye, Good Harbor Beach

#POLLINATORHERO

Bees and butterflies, as we all know, pollinate flowers, but did you know that bats, songbirds, hummingbirds, wasps, beetles, moths, flies, midges, and even nasty mosquitoes also deliver pollen from plant to plant?

Flower pollinating Green-eyed Wasp drinking nectar from Common Milkweed florets.

The eyes of the male Green-eyed Wasp are larger than the females, all the better to see her, and predators. Green-eyed Wasps are also known as sand wasps because females excavate burrowing nests in sand (as well as soil).

Male Monarch Butterfly flitting about our garden and drinking nectar from the Marsh Milkweed florets. Notice the mass of orange Milkweed Aphids in the background. Lady Beetles are another pollinator super hero because they help milkweed plants by eating aphids.

MONARCHS HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE PART TWO AND PLEASE CONTINUE TO REPORT YOUR MONARCH SIGHTINGS

The title of the post could just as easily have read Monarchs, Eggs, and Caterpillars Here, There, and Everywhere. I haven’t seen this much Monarch activity on Cape Ann in over ten years and hope so much the number of Monarchs seen in gardens, meadows, and dunes indicates a strong migration.

Thank you to everyone who has written in with your Monarch sightings! The reports are tremendously informative and fun to read, so please, do continue to let us know. The rainy cool weather has temporarily put the kibosh on mating and egg laying, but they are here on our shores and just waiting for a few warm hours and the sun to come out to renew breeding activity.

Monarchs not only drink nectar from the florets of milkweed, it is the only species of plant on which they deposit their eggs. In the above photo you can clearly see the Monarch probing for nectar with her proboscis, or drinking straw. 

Look for the butterflies, eggs, and caterpillars wherever milkweed grows. In our region, they are most often found on pink flowering Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), as opposed to the orange milkweeds, A. curassavica and A. tuberosa.

Female Monarch depositing an egg on an upper leaf of Common Milkweed.

The eggs are typically laid on the underside of the leaf, near the top of the plant. Tiny golden domes, no larger than a pinhead, Monarch eggs are easily confused with the eggs of other insects.

Once the tiny caterpillar emerges, it will stay towards the top of the plant, venturing further to larger leaves as it grows.

Four Monarchs in One Photo!

I was trying to take a snapshot of two Monarchs flying but not until I returned home did I realize that resting on a leaf were a pair of Monarchs mating. Lara Lepionka had just sent a photo the day before of a pair mating in a tree above her garden. Typically Monarchs will begin mating on the ground, or the foliage of a lower plant plant such as squash or milkweed. They will join together abdomen to abdomen and, once securely attached, the male then carries the female to a safer location. A male and female Monarch will stay coupled together for four to five hours before releasing (see photo below of a pair of Monarchs mating, towards center left. 

Lara Lepionka cell phone photo of Monarchs mating in a tree.Monarch and Common Milkweed Good Harbor Beach

Not everyone has a gorgeous milkweed patch like Patti Papows. Don’t despair. You don’t have to go far! I am finding tons of eggs and caterpillars on the Common Milkweed that grows around the edge of the parking lot at Good Harbor Beach.

Patti Papows Common Milkweed with Monarch and Bee

 

PATTI’S CATTIES AND OTHER TALES FROM THE PAPOWS BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

My friend Patti Papows very thoughtfully invited me to come film and take photos in her gorgeous garden, especially her milkweed patch. Patti purchased milkweed plants from our Cape Ann Milkweed Project several years ago, both the Common and Marsh Milkweed that we offered.

Patti’s Common Milkweed has really taken off this year. The plants are about five feet tall, lush and healthy, and bursting with sweetly fragrant blossoms. The Monarchs are daily visitors, coming not by the ones and twos, but by the dozen. Not only are her milkweed blossoms beckoning to the Monarchs, but the plants are also attracting every bee species imaginable found in a Cape Ann garden, as well as myriad other pollinating insects.

I showed Patti how to find Monarch caterpillars. She found three in about three minutes; we weren’t even trying that hard! They are safer from spiders in my terrariums, so I brought her tiny caterpillars home where they are developing nicely alongside a dozen Monarch eggs. These eggs were discovered in my garden, and at the Common Milkweed plants growing along the edges of the Good Harbor Beach parking lot.

Patti’s patch of native highbush blueberries attracts loads of Catbirds, and dozens more species of songbirds and small mammals. This morning the foliage made a perfect perch for a male Monarch butterfly.

In the above photo you can clearly see the Monarch’s two-part tubular drinking straw, called a proboscis. The Monarch is probing deep into the Milkweed floret for a sip of sweet nectar. 

Who, me? I’m innocent! Chipmunk snacking at the buffet-of-plenty in Patti’s garden.

Patti placed the purple chair in the midst of the milkweed patch so that visitors can enjoy being surrounded by the beautiful pollinators buzzing all around and the delightful fragrance emitted by the Common Milkweed. I tried it out and her plan worked, it is pure Heaven!

I had an absolutely wonderful morning filming and photographing, despite the limiting overcast skies, and plan to return on a sunnier day, hopefully this week while the Monarchs are here on Cape Ann busy egg-laying and pollinating our gardens!

 

Patti shares that at the end of the day, her Monarchs are nectaring from the flowering hosta. She sent these photos this morning, taken yesterday afternoon with her cell phone. 

HOORAY FOR OUR TWENTY-THREE-DAY-OLD PIPING PLOVER CHICK!

Bravo to our little chick, who this evening, we are celebrating day twenty-three! Thank you to all our volunteers who are working so conscientiously to help the GHB PiPl survive Gloucester’s busiest beach.

Despite the fact that he can’t exactly still fit under Papa and Mama, at twenty-three-days-old, Little Chick still needs snuggles to thermoregulate.

Note how large Little Chick’s beak is growing.

Twenty-three-day-old Piping Plover: Of the four Piping Plover chicks that hatched on the morning of June 22nd (the first hatched at about 6am, and all had hatched by noontime), our little chick is the sole survivor.

At 6:30 this morning another fight with the interloper took place. I was able to capture some of it on film and, surprisingly, a very similar battle took place later this morning between the Coffin’s Beach Piping Plovers.

The Good Harbor Beach dunes are teeming with life. I spied five Monarch Butterflies on the Common Milkweed this afternoon, with many reports shared by readers of Monarch sightings all around Cape Ann and Massachusetts. We’ll do a post about Monarchs this coming week, and in the meantime, please share your Monarch sightings.

Dragonflies are predacious, and like our Piping Plover chick eat tiny invertebrates.

Green Darner Dragonfly and Twelve-spotted Skimmer lying in wait for insects.

Beach bunny munching wild salad greens for breakfast.

Monarch Butterfly and Common Milkweed, Good Harbor Beach

AWESOME VOLUNTEERS MONITORING THE PIPING PLOVER CHICKS AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Day six, and all four Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers are thriving! Their survival is in large part due to the efforts of Ken Whittaker, Dave Rimmer, and a growing assemblage of wonderful volunteers. If you would like to volunteer to take a shift babysitting the PiPl, please email Ken Whittaker at kwhittaker@gloucester-ma-gov. Ken is meeting groups on the beach to explain the protocol. The shifts are brief and it’s great fun to be at GHB as an ambassador for the Plovers while monitoring and answering questions.

Catherine Ryan and her sons Charles and George King have the early morning shifts, from 6am to 7:30, and they are splitting it three ways, each taking a half hour. Piping Plover watchers are invited to take notes–here are one of the volunteers, Hazel’s, excellent notes:

“I was there from about 11.30 to 1 pm today June 26..

During that time I only saw one adult at a time, probably about once every 20 minutes, not doing much – preening, sitting on the sand, resting under a bush, moving around relatively slowly. I also saw one baby at a time moving about – except for the last 20 minutes when I saw 2, possibly 3, moving around at the same time (I had lent my binoculars to some interested bystanders so not sure of the number).

I spoke to 2 groups of young people playing with a ball and a frisbee – they were unaware of the plover nest and very agreeable to moving further away. One couple were seated very close to the rope, and also unaware of the plovers.  They said they would watch out for babies coming outside the enclosure, and later had been watching one of the babies moving around inside.

Two other groups were close to the enclosure and already aware. The second group arrived when two or three babies were moving around and excited to see them through binoculars.

I will be back tomorrow from 11 to 1 pm.

Hazel”

Loved reading the King brother’s notes. Great job Charles and George!!

Five Day-Old Piping Plover Chick Foraging for Insects

While walking through the dunes on boardwalk 3 at Good Harbor on the way to volunteer, or simply to visit the PiPl, notice the Common Milkweed that is in full glorious bloom. You may catch a whiff of its wonderful honey-hay scent. And quite possibly, a Monarch sighting, or two!

Male Monarch Nectaring from Common Mikweed, Good Harbor Beach Dune

FIRST MONARCH SIGHTING OF THE SEASON!

First Monarch butterfly sighting of the summer, AND SHE IS DEPOSITING EGGS!!!

So many thanks to my friend Morgan Faulds Pike, sculptor of the Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, for sharing her sighting. The female Monarch was spotted near Goose Cove, depositing eggs on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

Note how the female is curling her abdomen around to the underside of the milkweed leaf. The Monarchs most often (but definitely not always), choose the most tender newly emerging foliage at the top of the plant on which to oviposit eggs.

Please share your Monarch butterfly sightings. If you do get a photo, we’ll post here. If you do not, we would love to know the date and location of your sighting any way. THANK YOU! 

Delightful illustration course at Rocky Neck Cultural Center: award winning children’s book author illustrator, fine artist and Film Animator ANNA VOJTECH

What an opportunity to learn from someone in the top of the field! Tuesdays with Anna Vojtech begin March 28th (new dates announced)  March 14th and continues weekly through May 2.
Anna Vojtech is a fine artist and an award winning children’s book illustrator and writer living in Gloucester. She grew up in Prague, Czechoslovakia, what is now the Czech Republic. She studied art and film animation at the Art Academy in Prague, in Antwerp, Belgium, and in Hamburg, Germany. 
In 1971 Anna moved with her husband to Canada where she worked at the National Filmboard and for various film companies in Montreal. Her work in film animation led her to children’s book illustration.
Since 1979 Anna has worked with major publishing houses (“The First Strawberries” by Joseph Bruchac, Dial/Penguin, “Tough Beginnings” by Marylin Singer, Henry Holt & Co, “Over in the Meadow” by Olive Wadsworth, North-South Books (now Simon & Schuster), “Ten Flashing Fireflies” by Philemon Sturges,  and many others).
She became also known for her stunning botanical paintings, published by Crown Publishers as “Wild Flowers for All Seasons”.
anna
For the last 18 years Anna has been living with her family in Gloucester, painting and illustrating in her Cripple Cove Studio. She is happy to live on Cape Ann and to share her life and art with the community. 
anna-8-week-course

Common Milkweed Abloom, Here, There, and Everywhere!

Common Milkweed and Bee Asclepias syriaca ©Kim Smith 2015A patch of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom has a wonderfully sweet honey-hay scent. Look for it growing along the sand dunes, roadside edges, fields, meadows, and where ever there is a neglected patch. And keep your eyes peeled for Monarchs; the earliest arrivals (for the most part) are synchronized to the flowering of Common Milkweed.

Comsos 12 ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Friend me on Facebook and follow me on TwitterInstagram, and Vine. You can also subscribe to my design website at Kim Smith Designs, and film’s websites at Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, Gloucester’s Feast of Saint Joseph Community Film Project, and Life Story of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

Please Don’t Weed the Milkweed

Common Milweed Asclepias syriaca ©Kim Smith 2014Once established, native Common Milkweed grows vigorously and rambunctiously, making itself known even in the thinnest of sidewalk cracks. Here’s a patch growing along East Main Street. I think it beautiful! What do you think?

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If you caught Tom Ashbrook’s On Point broadcast on NPR this morning you heard Doctor Lincoln Brower, Karen Oberhausser, and Rick Mikula, three of the world’s leading butterfly experts, speaking about the disappearance of the Monarch and the main reason why–most notably because of the sterilization of the American landscape through the use Monsanto’s Roundup and GMO corn and soybean crops. The episode is airing again tonight at 8pm.

The following is a list of a few suggestions on ways in which we can all help turn the tide:

Plant milkweed and wildflowers. Teach members of your family and friends what milkweed looks like and why we don’t want to weed it out of the garden. The above patch of milkweed is growing next to a shop on East Main Street. About a month ago, I went into the store and, very, very politely inquired as to whether or not they knew that the plant growing outside their doorway was a terrific patch of milkweed. They had no idea. I explained what the benefits were to the Monarchs and have since noticed that the milkweed patch is still growing beautifully!

Ban GMO crops. Genetically modified seeds have been altered to withstand megadoses of Roundup. Millions and millions of tons of herbicides are poured onto Roundup Ready fields of crops, preventing any other plant that has not been genetically altered from growing (in other words, wildflowers). The application of Monsanto’s deadly destructive herbicide Roundup is creating vast sterilized agricultural wastelands, which will, over time, only need heavier and heavier does of their lethal chemicals to continue to be viable.

Don’t apply herbicides and pesticides in your own gardens.

Create wildflower corridors in backyards and highways.

Reduce salt wherever possible (and where it wouldn’t cause harm to human life). Large amounts of road salt, as was needed during this past snowiest of winters, is detrimental to wildlife habitats.

Hooray for Pathways for Children’s Brand Spanking New Butterfly Garden!

Pathways for Children we ©Kim Smith 2014HOLY CANNOLI and WOW–look how fantastically the Pathway’s Staff is taking care of their brand new one-month old butterfly garden–every plant looks well-loved!!!

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden BEFORE ©Kim Smith 2014 copySpring 2014 Before Photo

Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden  After ©Kim Smith 2014.

Same View After Photo ~  July 18, 2014

Elizabeth's Toad ©Kim Smith

Toads Welcome!

My sincerest thanks to Caroline Haines for her vision to create a butterfly garden for the children at Pathways. 

Thank you to the many donors who have made the butterfly gardens at Pathways possible. 

Thank you to the Manchester Garden Club for their tremendous assisitance in planting the garden.

Thank you to the volunteers from Liberty Mutual for tearing out the old plantings.

And special thanks to Bernie Romanowski, Pathways for Children facilities director, for all his hard work and his extraordinary care and attention to detail, from the project’s inception through its continued maintenance. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Zinnia ©Kim Smith 2014. Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Sunflower ©Kim Smith 2014.Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2014.Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) ~ Notice the pretty moth nectaring from the milkweed in the upper right. The gardens are alive with pollinators of every species imaginable, including butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, songbirds, moths, and sundry insects!Bernie Romanowski ©Kim Smith 2014 copy

 Bernie Romanowski

Manchester Garden Club at Pathways ©Kim Smith 2014Manchester Garden Club

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Antennae for Design ~

The architectural details of the trellis and picnic table were designed to be a coordinated focal point in the garden and planned to be stained a classic seaside blue. Why would we want to paint or stain the trellis and not simply allow it to gain a weathered patina? From an aesthetic point of view, the wood used for both the picnic table and trellis are two different types and will age very differently from each other. If this were a very large garden, it wouldn’t matter so much, but in a cozy garden room such as this, the difference will become quite noticeable and unappealing over time. Additionally, the blue will offset the flowers and foliage handsomely and is a cheery choice with children in mind.

From a very practical standpoint, untreated wood will quickly degrade in our salty sea air and neither piece will last more than ten years without protection. An opaque stain is the best solution because as the trellis and picnic table age, the obvious differences in wood will be disguised. An opaque stain also requires the least amount of effort to maintain over time.

Rotting untreated trellis ©Kim Smith 2014The above is a photo of untreated trellis, allowed to weather, and was installed approximately ten years ago.

_DSF8394 Pathways for Children Butterfly Garden school bus ©Kim Smith 2014.

Thank You to Everyone Who Participated in This Year’s Cape Ann Milkweed Project!!!

Monarch Butterflies Pink New England Aster ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterflies Nectaring at Pink New Enlgand Aster, Gloucester

Thank you so much to our most awesome community for participating in the Cape Ann Monarch Milkweed and Aster Project. Today was a huge and wonderful success and we were non-stop with folks dropping in to pick up their seeds and learn more about how they can help the Monarchs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

And my most heartfelt thanks to Joey. He nudged me into doing the sale again this year by inquiring just about a month ago if we were planning a repeat of last year’s plant sale. Joey’s hospitality and interest in everyone who stops by makes Captain Joe’s a wonderfully fun place to have a community event!

Note to anyone who could not pick up their seeds or who was planning to have them sent via a self-addressed stamped envelope: You will recieve an email with information on where to send the check and order amount total. Thanks again to everyone!

Monarch Butterfly fur ©Kim Smith 2012Fun fact about butterflies: Butterflies do not grow fur. The fur-like structures that you see on butterflies are many single cells conjoined to form one long string.

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In case you misplace the instructions on how to prepare your milkweed seeds for spring planting ~

How to Vernalize Milkweed Seeds for Spring Planting

Seeds of most temperate plants need to be vernalized—in other words, exposed to cold temperatures. The best way to vernalize is by stratification, which means subjecting seeds to a cold and moist environment for a short period of time. By stratifying, the seed’s natural break of dormancy that occurs when the seed spends the winter in the ground is simulated.

#1 Method of Stratifying Milkweed

Open the bag of seeds and place them between very slightly moistened paper towels in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. After vernalizing for 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted out in the garden in warm 70º soil.

#2 Method of Stratifying Milkweed

Place ¼ cup of sand mixed with ¼ tsp. of water in a plastic bag. Add the seeds and mix again. Store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. After vernalizing for 3-6 weeks, the seeds can be planted out in the garden in warm 70º soil.

Prepare the planting bed in a sunny location. Scatter seeds, or plant in rows, and cover with no more than ¼ inch of soil.

For natural vernalization, sow collected seeds directly into a prepared bed in the fall and the seed will germinate the following spring.

Monarch Caterpillars Common Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars Munching on Milkweed

Cape Ann Milkweed Project Seed Pickup and Information Day Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon

Our milkweed and New England aster seed pickup day is Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to noon, at Captain Joe and Sons. Come on down to pick up your seeds and learn the best way to plant asters and milkweeds. We’ll have coffee and doughnuts, too! Captain Joe’s is located at 95 East Main Street and you can find directions posted on their website here.

Thanks so much to Joey for hosting the event at the dock. I am looking forward to saying hello to everyone!

Monarch butterfly explosion ©Kim Smith 2014Millions of milkweeds and nectar-rich wildflowers, such as New England Asters and Seaside Goldenrod, insures millions of Monarchs arrive to Mexico!

Reminder: Cape Ann Milkweed Project Seed Pickup and Information Day is Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon

Monarch Butterflies Gloucester Massachusetts ©Kim Smith 2006Eastern Point during the Monarch’s southward migration in late summer.

The first Monarchs of Spring 2014 have been sighted in Massachusetts (Kingston), as has emerging milkweed. For the past week, a weather pattern has been in place that is perfect for the Monarchs northward migration. Powerful south winds pumped warm air northward and in conditions such as these, Monarchs are carried from southern regions more quickly northward.

Below is a map from the Journey North website illustrating favorable wind patterns for Monarchs.

Our milkweed and New England Aster seed pickup day is this coming Sunday from 9:30 to noon at Captain Joe and Sons. Captain Joe’s is located at 95 East Main Street and you can find directions posted on their website here. Thanks so much to Joey for hosting the event at the dock. Looking forward to seeing everyone!

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