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!
Tag Archives: Common Milkweed
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?
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.
You go girl! A single Ladybug can eat fifty aphids a day. The Green Lacewing even more. Milkweed plants are sometimes overrun with aphids. The easiest way to rid your garden of aphids is to zap the pests with a garden hose. They are tiny soft bodied insects and will wash away readily. #nativeplants #pollinatorhero #milkweed #milkweed #ladybugs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Catties❣️My friend Patti Papows invited me to stop by and photograph her Fabulous milkweed patch. She purchased her plants several years ago at our Cape Ann Milkweed Project plant sale. Her plants have really come into their own this year and are rife with beautiful Monarchs, every bee species imagined in a New England garden, and other butterflies and insects too. More tonight on Good Morning Gloucester! #pollinatorhero #milkweed #nativeplants #gloucesterma #monarch #monarchbutterfly #caterpillar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Loved reading the King brother’s notes. Great job Charles and George!!
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!
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.
Delightful illustration course at Rocky Neck Cultural Center: award winning children’s book author illustrator, fine artist and Film Animator ANNA VOJTECH
A 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.
Friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, 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.
Once 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.
HOLY 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!!!
Same View After Photo ~ July 18, 2014
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. 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!
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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.
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!
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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.
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!
Reminder: Cape Ann Milkweed Project Seed Pickup and Information Day is Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon
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!
Reminder: Monarch Milkweed and Aster Seed Pickup and Information Day is Next Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to Noon
Our Milkweed and New England Aster seed pickup day is next 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. Thank you so much to Joey for offering to host the event at the dock. See You There!
Below is a list of some favorite nectar- and pollen-rich bee-friendly North American wildflowers for attracting native bees and honey bees to your gardens. They are listed in order of bloom time, from spring through late summer, to provide your foragers with nourishment all growing season long.
Wild strawberry (Fragaria viginiana)
Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Sunflower (Helianthus annus)
Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens)
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
New York Ironweed (Veronia noveboracensis)
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
The above is a favorite photo from my trip in February to film the Monarchs. This week we will be bringing you the short interview film with Tom Emmel at the summit of the Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve!
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WOW and DOUBLE WOW!!! Today we totaled the excel spread sheet and placed the order for our wildflower seeds. I hope everything is fully in stock, and if all is, the seeds should be arriving by early next week! I thought everyone would be interested to know our amazing grand totals:
Marsh Milkweed Packets: 36 Marsh Milkweed 1 Ounce Quantity: 21 Common Milkweed Packets: 74 Common Milkweed 1 Ounce Quantity: 11 Pink New England Asters: 58 Purple New England Asters: 44
A HUGE THANK YOU to EVERYONE participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project!
Below are several GMG posts with lots more information about the Cape Ann Milkweed Project. For more posts, type in the search word milkweed or Monarch Butterfly.
The order for milkweed seeds and asters in being placed on Monday so please get your orders in before then. Thank you!
Thank you so very much to everyone participating in the Cape Ann Milkweed Project! Lots more good information to come!
Please note that the milkweed seeds are available in two different species and two different quantities. Please place your order amounts in the comment section of this post as follows:
Your Name, Your Email Address (optional), and Seed Type and Quantity.
Pippi Longstocking, firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Packet Common Milkweed 3.50
1 oz. Marsh Milkweed 15.00
2 Packets Pink New England Aster @ 3.50 ea. = 7.00
My order total: $25.50
We are not collecting money ahead of time for the seeds. The orders are placed entirely by the honor system. Last year we did not have a single stiff and I will accept cash or check at the time of pick up. Seed pick up and information day will be Sunday, May 18th, from 9:30 to noon, at Captain Joe and Sons.
The packets of milkweed seeds (200-300 seeds) are perfect for a relatively smallish patch.
The larger ounce quantity is ideal for planting larger areas. On average, plan on 50 seeds per square foot. If your patch is 10 feet x 10 feet, that equals 100 square feet, and would require approximately 5,000 seeds.
Additionally, we are also offering pink and purple New England Aster seeds. I’ve never grown New England asters from seed, but have read that they are relatively easy to start (although slow to germinate). New England Asters make a beautiful border and will not only offer sustenance to southward migrating Monarchs, but in late summer also provide nectar for myriad species of bees and butterflies.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Seed Packet (300 seeds) 3.50
1 ounce (4900 seeds) 12.00
Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Seed packet (200 seeds) 3.50
1 oz. (5,200 seeds) 15.00
Pink New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae variation)
Seed Packet (1000 seeds) 3.50
Purple New England Aster (Aster novae angliae)
Seed Packet (1750seeds) 3.50
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Why is it so important to plant milkweed for the Monarchs? Milkweed is the only food plant of the Monarch Butterfly caterpillar. The Monarch Butterfly migration is in serious peril due to loss of habitat in the United States by the use of Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready corn, soybean, and sorghum crops. Global climate change is also a factor in the diminishing migration. We can all help mitigate some of the destruction by planting milkweed and nectar-rich wildflowers.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the milkweed we see most typically growing in our dunes, meadows, roadsides, and fields. It grows quickly and spreads vigorously by underground runners. This is a great plant if you have an area of your garden that you want to devote entirely to milkweed. It prefers full sun, will tolerate some shade, and will grow in nearly any type of soil. The flowers are dusty mauve pink and have a wonderful honey-hay sweet scent.
Marsh Milkweed (Aclepias incarnata) is more commonly found in marshy areas, but grows beautifully in gardens. It does not care for dry conditions. These plants are very well-behaved and are more clump forming, rather than spreading by underground roots. The flowers are typically a brighter pink than Common Milkweed.
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae) is a hardy late summer blooming perennial that grows approximately 36 inches to 60 inches. New England asters prefer wet to medium soil, grow well in full sun, and will tolerate part shade.
Last year was the beginning of our first and wonderfully successful Cape Ann Milkweed Project. Joe generously offered to hold the plant sale at Captain Joe and Sons, which is very conveniently located on East Main Street, and we had a fantastic turnout. This year I am thinking about doing things a little differently. Rather than shipping and handling live small plants, I am planning on purchasing milkweed seeds in bulk. My question is, and this is not the official order form, but just to get a sense of participation, does anyone have an interest in planting milkweed from seed in their gardens, meadows, and/or abandoned areas around our community?
I think I can get good quantities of seed of Marsh Milkweed, Common Milkweed, and Prairie Milkweed. All three are very easy to grow from seed and take about 14 days to germinate. I will provide complete information and tips on growing milkweed from seed.
Please answer in the comment section if you are interested in growing milkweed from seed.
Why is it so important to plant milkweed for the Monarchs? We’ve written much about that here on GMG. At the end of the post, please find a list of posts previously published on GMG about the importance of milkweed. In a nutshell, milkweed is the only caterpillar food plant of the Monarch butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly migration is in serious peril One way we can all take action to is to plant milkweed to help mitigate the loss of habitat, partly due to global climate change and primarily due to the use of Monsanto’s GMO Roundup Ready corn, soybean, and sorghum seed along with the massive use of their herbicide Roundup.
For the past three years I have been filming the life story of the Monarch Butterfly in backyards and along the shores of Cape Ann. My original intent was to tell the story of the butterflies primarily as it relates to their northern breeding grounds and specifically here in our community. Prior to filming, I wrote a children’s story about the Monarchs and during this entire time I have had an ongoing inner debate as to whether or not to travel to Mexico. While editing the film these past few months, I determined that capturing the butterfly’s story in their winter sleeping grounds as they are awakening in Mexico would only add to the film’s depth and beauty. To film in Mexico would be a dream come true.
If you listened to Joey’s GMG podcast yesterday, you heard that in February I am going to be filming the butterflies in Mexico!! This all has come about very quickly! I have to practice walking five miles a day, recall how to ride a horse, and learn enough Spanish so that if I am separated from my group or kidnapped by bandits, I can at least inquire as to where is the bathroom.
Does anyone know of a local outfit that gives lessons in trail riding? And does anyone have experience with a Spanish language lesson CD (basic)? If so, can you please recommend in the comment section. Thank you!!!!!!!
Stay tuned for adventures from Mexico! Beauty on the Wing ~ Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly will premiere in the summer of 2014.
Rather than wait until the film was complete, this weekend I made a new website for the film-in-progress. When you have a moment, I hope you’ll visit my website and read more about Beauty on the Wing here.
Beauty on the Wing celebrates the poetry and majesty of the uniquely North American phenomenon of the Monarch butterfly and its migration. There are no other butterflies the world over that travel this distance and it is a fascinating ecological link that connects Mexico with nearly every geographic region within the United States and Canada. How well the forested habitats of Michoacán are taken care of is as of equal importance to the Monarchs as how we in Gloucester conserve our habitats.