Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Answer, My Friend

I love Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), it's a lovely flowering plant that attracts the Monarch Butterfly to the garden.

But, that's not the only reason, I love Butterfly Weed.

It's true that Butterfly Weed and the Monarch Butterfly have a mutually beneficial relationship. The Butterfly Weed provides nectar to the butterfly, food for the caterpillar and a safe place for the Monarch Butterfly to lay her eggs. In return, the Butterfly pollinates the Butterfly Weed, ensuring fruit and seed production. But it goes a step further. When the caterpillars emerge from the egg and begins to eat the leaves, they take in a dose of a cardiac glycoside that is passed from caterpillar to butterfly and on to any bird that foolishly eats them! The bird gets sick and learns to stay away from the Monarch Butterfly and caterpillar!

While, that is nature at its clever best; that's only part of the reason why I love Butterfly Weed.

Once the Monarch Butterfly or other visitors have pollinated the flowers, the fruit or pods develop. When the fruit ripens, the pod splits open.

Ripe and unripened pods.

An immature or juvenile Milk Weed Bug at the tip of a pod.

The seed is surrounded by fine silky hairs or floss. It is soft to the touch. Once the hairs fluff up, they are ready to



parachute away! Botanists call this wind dispersal, but to me it is pure magic.



They are beautiful as they blow about, pausing for a brief moment, here and there, before the wind catches them and they are gone. Traveling on the wind a few feet or a few miles, they will drop from the sky onto a spot of soil and wait the winter out. Come spring, the seed will grow and the silk will be gathered by hummingbirds and warblers for their nests and then it starts all over again.

Now, that's what I love about Butterfly Weed.

Gail

The answer, my friend, Is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.
Bob Dylan go ahead and click Bob!



69 comments:

  1. 'wind dispersal'... sounds - hell - so rational. I prefer more romantic 'parachuting' or 'gone with the wind'...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ewa,

    Exactly my thinking! What's wrong with a little romantic thinking!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautiful post! The pictures of the seeds are so lovely I can almost feel how soft they are. I want to grow milkweed now.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post Gail, I wish my Butterfly Weed had done well this year but it didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Gail, Those were wonderful shots of the flying dancers. My favorite movie, the original Fantasia by Walt Disney has these seeds pods as ballerinas spinning on moving water then dropping off a waterfall. Ahhh.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lovely photos, Gail, and a great post about the cycle of life. Thanks to Frances, too, for the reminder about the scene in Fantasia--I had forgotten that.

    I went to check on my lone butterfly weed yesterday and discovered the tips had all been eaten off. Is that normal, the workings of the caterpillars? Or could something else be eating it?
    I'll have to keep better tabs on it to see what happens next.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice post Gail! Butterfly weed is one of those really important wild flowers. I had to add two to the garden this year. I hope they have a nice show next year.

    ReplyDelete
  8. cynthia,

    You will love them! The flower is unusual and the butterflies are lovely! Then you get the great looking seed! Good luck.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  9. pgl,

    Darn! I wonder what the problem was? It is drought tolerant, but still, it doesn't mind some moisture! Did you have aphids? They are sometimes a problem.

    Well, what is the gardener's mantra? "There is always next year!"
    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  10. Frances,

    Flying dancers is perfect! They are like dancers floating about on the breeze! Thanks for the compliment on my dancer photos.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  11. Rose,

    I was glad Frances reminded us of the Flying Dancers in Fantasia, too! I might have to get the tape out and watch it again! So sorry your Butterfly Weed hasn't performed well this year! Maybe caterpillars ate it or aphids. Aphids love milkweed plants. I have read that if deer are desperately hungry they might forage on plants that are usually distasteful to them! Maybe next year!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dave,

    They are an important food food source for the monarch butterfly and caterpillar. There is a Monarch Watch going on that is quite exciting....with links to ideas and ways to help the migrating monarch! I will plant more but I hope a few flying dancers landed in the garden!

    http://www.monarchwatch.org/

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  13. I want to plant some butterfly weed in my garden. Butterflies are so beautiful, aren't they? I want to get more butterflies in my garden next year. I'm going to transplant some plants today, but I'm letting it warm up.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My butterfly weed did so well this year I too have a bunch of seed pods. I finally saw those milkweed bugs you posted on too. I was so happy I knew what they were! Yup, blowing in the wind but I am trying to plant them right next to mother. Hope it works. Do yours self seed alot?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Beautiful photos and an interesting post. I don't know why I've never grown this plant.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'll look for some today as I'm tracking around Wilmington, NC. It's a happy looking flower. I did see lots of butterflies yesterday. And there's not too much hurrican damage.

    I'll see ya later. I'm so excited about my day. I hope you feel better. Did you get to work in the garden? Did you take my home remedy cure? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love these as well. And how nice you have photos are all the different stages! We have a few that grow along the fence line but I would like to try and get a few more growing around the place.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh my, what a great post and photos. The last photo is just as stunning as it gets!!!!

    Hope you and hubby get well soon.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Gail, I have so many thoughts... LOVE, LOVE this post. You are really getting good with your camera. Wonderful photos. Love the silky hairs on the reddish leaves... beautiful.

    Is this the state of your milkweed now? Just curious as mine will not make the transformation to seed and silky parachutes until January. It is now still serving the feeding and egg laying frenzy.

    Milkweed is the only plant I can think of in my garden that has this sort of visible blowing in the wind cycle. They surely do earn their keep don't they? Thanks again for a fun to read and view post!

    Have a great day, Gail.

    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Gail, It's me again. I just realized I didn't answer your question from your last response to me on your last post(whew... that was a mouthful). My milkweeds are Scarlet Milkweed. The flowers have a deep orange outer layer with yellow centers.

    Because they have consistent diners I planted them in the back forty. That places them next to the neighbors sort of wildly kept back forty and my sort of woodlands back forty. It seems to be a really perfect place for them. Plus... because they are not highly visible I don't disply my usual OCD tendencies when they are chewed to pieces. :-)
    Meems

    ReplyDelete
  21. I had two volunteer butterweeds pop up on me this year. I noticed that one has the seed pods and now I can expect what will come of the pods. Maybe I need to go peek in on the pods to see if they have already flown away...

    ReplyDelete
  22. I like the way you got closer and closer and closer in your images, Gail. I'd never looked at milkweed so closely before. It is indeed magical.

    ReplyDelete
  23. It's also cool to set the dried fluff on fire. No reason!
    ~ Monica

    ReplyDelete
  24. Blow wind. Blow a little my way. I see it along the roadsides and marvel. It seems some would land in my garden. The Verbena bonariensis you gave has settled in and doing well. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  25. cinj,

    They will look beautiful with your woodland setting and offer the kids a good lesson in butterflies and caterpillars...thanks for stopping by...The chicken soup was delicious and I am starting to feel better, still stopped up and feverish, but heading toward better!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  26. Tina,

    I haven't seen any that self seeded but they could be hidden in the middle of the Susan! I did plant a few seeds near the full grown plant. The cold weather we get will be perfect for them. The seeds need the cold to grow. I think seeds you purchase may already have had a cold treatment. Also try Dave's propagation method...stem cuttings are very successful, but no dividing the tap root can't take the move!

    I am glad you had good success with yours this year...Aren't the milkweed bugs rather Halloween like?

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  27. Phillip,

    It would look lovely in your garden and surprising to me; it looks super next to the Fairy Rose. Some pinks and yellow-orange look great together! I will have seed if you need it!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anna,

    You bad girl! I am already light-headed! I still think you need to be a spokes-person for your beloved state! Btw, I am glad you weren't pelted by Hanna too badly!

    I did get outside but I think another day of rest is in order! Thank you for asking! Have a wonderful day!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  29. Cindy,

    Do plant more, I have seen ads for red ones and, as you can see mine is more yellow then orange. Those are the three available colors. The tropical butterfly weed flower is red and orange and is really good looking.
    I bet we could grow it as an annual!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  30. Jean,

    I am so glad you liked that photo. The seed parachuted over to the Celosia...and looked fabulous! It did turn out nice.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi Gail, I've never grown it. It's a biennial isn't it? It has to self seed to produce new plants for the garden? I don't have much luck with self seeding plants.
    Marnie

    ReplyDelete
  32. When my kids were little, they used to love to toss the Milkweed seeds to the wind & watch them float away. I'd give them each a full pod & they'd be delighted & transfixed until all the seeds were gone.

    ReplyDelete
  33. meems,

    Two comments! You are inflating my numbers! LOL at myself! Sometimes this camera surprises me. It can capture the filiament like hairs seed of a Butterfly Weed but not the pretty face of Salvia! The last photo is Flying Dancer against Dark Caracas Celosia...it would love your garden. Isn't it dramatic and tropical looking?

    One of the he Butterfly Weed plants just finished flowering about two weeks ago, the other flowered much earlier. I have never deadheaded them for a second bloom, fearing I would miss out on the Flying Dancers (thanks Frances). But others say they will rebloom! Every garden is different. The Butterfly Weed you grow sounds fabulous and happy in the back forty! My garden is rough and tumble; BW looks good in woodland setting with enough sun. We see it growing along the interstate all over middle Tennnessee! It has to be drought tolerant to survive that neglect!

    The blowing in the wind/wind dispersal/parachute effect is also seen in thistles, some grasses and dandelions! Most folks don't want thistle or dandelion in their gardens.

    I am glad you stopped by to visit! It's always a pleasure.

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  34. Skeeter,

    They seem to open over night! But even then, they have to dry out and fluff up before they blow away! So you may have time. You could put a paper bag around one to save the seeds if you are concerned they will blow away before you get to them. They will still ripen in the small paper sack!

    What a nice surprise that they showed up in your garden. They must have parachuted in when they saw how welcoming you were!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  35. Pam,

    It is a pretty little seed isn't it! I think that many things need to be examined closely, in order to appreciate their beauty. ...and a decent camera really helps!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  36. Monica,

    You have a bit of the naughty garden fairy in you! I never set it on fire, but I might have to try that! Thanks for the idea.

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  37. mmd,

    I am still charmed by it, for a little while, I need more to keep me occupied now....blogs and gardening, just about does it!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  38. Donna,

    Do you want seeds I will have enough to share...your welcome, it was fun to meet you. Gail

    ReplyDelete
  39. Those are beautiful photos and a very interesting flower. I love the flying white stuff.. the butterfly weed?

    ReplyDelete
  40. mmd,

    I meant to ask, are your kids interested in gardening at this time? I thought I remembered you saying that your daughter picked out a plant and you were planting it.

    My son didn't show interest until college...he is now a phd student studying Ecology. We plant those seeds early and they do sprout!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  41. dp,

    Do you want seeds for your garden...you can grow food for the butterflies and caterpillars, too.

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  42. Bob would probably be happy with this connection.

    ReplyDelete
  43. it is magic. I love it too. I only have one butterfly weed in my garden, the plant is three years old and just beginning to be a nice size. It has pods on it right now but I've never seen Monarchs (either butterflies or caterpillars) on it? Strange, huh? Your photos are really beautiful too.

    ReplyDelete
  44. lisa,

    Please tell me you listened to Bob's youtube video! I have a link for everyone to follow!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  45. kathleen,

    I haven't seen caterpillars on mine, either! Maybe next year or even after that...I wan to get a good stand of it growing so that it has a nice presence and attracts the other boys of summer, the monarchs! Thank you for the sweet compliment!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  46. Great pics Gail. I like to watch the flying ballerinas--so light & fluffy. Looks as though they could drift for hrs.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I knew there was some reason why I loved this plant! As a matter of fact, I brought home a yellow one today. I planted it in my new nameless bed. Hopefully it will produce some of those seed pods and I'll get to feel once again the softness of those seed parachutes.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hey lola, how are you? Now we are all going to think of Tiny dancers, flying ballerinas and Walt Disney when we see Butterfly Weed seeds floating in the air!
    About the photos...Thank you!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  49. Marnie,

    If you change your mind and want to try growing Butterfly weed let me know...there are seeds here with your name on them! BTW, it's a slow to emerge in the spring perennial.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  50. Susie,

    How serendipitous that you found a Butterfly Weed today! It sounds like a lovely one and hopefully the pods will start to develop for you. Don't be alarmed if the funky looking orange and black milkweed bug shows up...just brush them off!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hey Gail,
    Rub it in, will ya? :-) I've struggled to get Asclepias going here (back with the King) for about 4 years, planted from seed, but it just struggles every year. This year it was just pathetic and didn't even bloom much.

    But yours is simply gorgeous! So envious, that I vow to buy 2-3 good sized plants to start next year, since seed just isn't doing it for us. Always next year, eh??

    The seed captured in the 'Caracas' foliage was really, really pretty! You nailed that one, hon.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Gail, great pictures of the seeds. I didn't look that closely at my one little bloomer. Out of 5 that I grew from seed only the one bloomed, but the caterpillars found it anyway. In fact they were there 2 different times(never found the cocoon). The others hopefully will live through the winter and do well next year. I couldn't be happier to finally have Butterfly weed in my gardens.

    ReplyDelete
  53. ivg,

    I am pleased as punch that you are so taken with Celosia foliage. It is a great plant; color and flower!

    Go with the plants! You won't have long to wait for the great blooms and seed pods. You might get MIlkweed Bug, an strange looking true bug creature.

    Glad you popped over,
    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  54. Linda lunda,

    Thank you! What a great avatar you have!

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  55. Beckie,

    I don't know where the caterpillars disappear to but so far I haven't found any! Do you know IVG, you can find his link on my blog or hear in comments, anyway, he has a wonderful photo of a monarch caterpillar hanging from a plant on it's way to chrysalisness!

    I do enjoy milkweed and I think your idea of a big patch is great!.

    gail

    ReplyDelete
  56. Gail your pictures in this entry are SO BEAUTIFUL!

    You really are a talented photographer. Its funny how one (me) could know someone (you) for so long and not realize that they had this incredible talent...you amazing person!!!

    ReplyDelete
  57. lynnie,

    My world traveling bestest ever friend...you are too kind. Where are you now, home? Or in an exotic locale? Yes, I know home is an exotic locale but it is home! Hey, let me email you and EB to catch you up on latest news. Much love, Gail

    ReplyDelete
  58. I love your blog, very informative. I will have to get some Butterfly Weed.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Gail, thanks for visiting my blog, and the lovely comment.
    I was just reading about milkweed in the farmers almanac. We do not have it growing wild here, but can buy a hybrid varity that is grown as a bedding plant. Amazing how nature works, is'nt it? Your photos are wonderful.
    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  60. Glad to hear you're starting to feel better. I have lots more if you need some. I got some plants around the shed now, I am hoping that I can afford to add some more next spring.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I have butterfly weed for the first time this year. My seed pods are getting fat. I had no idea that the seeds were so beautiful. Now I can't wait to see them!
    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  62. jen,

    It was my pleasure! Your dream small town is great. I knew that it didn't grow in Washington...must be too wet and not enough sun and that it sounds like it is true for BC! Nature is indeed interesting!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  63. Robin,

    Thanks! You will enjoy the seed pods. It's a nice thought that the silk will be used for hummingbird nests! You have the hummingbirds!

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  64. cinj,

    I am much better thank you! How are you doing? Are you getting a break now that the kids are in school?

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  65. darla,

    Thanks! I love when folks learn something here...it's fun for me to visit blogs and learn.

    Gail

    ReplyDelete
  66. Hi Gail,
    Well you know I'm a huge fan of Celosia for precisely that reason (foliage)! Next year keep your eye out for "New Look" a Plumosa type with neon pink/red foliage and deep red blooms ... it's a stunner that can get up to about 12" tall (beware of dwarf varieties!). I'm sure it played a role in the development of 'Caracas,' at some point.

    Carefree, heat loving beauties like these belong in every sunny garden. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  67. Gail, I'm in Hong Kong, but we are traveling to the US again at the end of September - just the usual, St. Louis, Austin, Minnesota and Columbia. It will be strange to be in Columbia and have Daniel not be there, but we are planning a visit to Taipei at the beginning of November.

    In keeping with the spirit of your blog I can report that although it is still extremely hot here the plants on my balcony are very happy right now. Bouganvilla, crotons, ferns, bromilliads, succulents, mint, rosemary and basil. If they can stand hot humid weather and not too much sun they seem to do okay. We buy a lot of orchids but I just kill them..

    ReplyDelete
  68. When I began this comment it was going to be about your beautiful photos of milkweed seeds, and how I should go out and look at my plants to see if there are any pods on them, but now after reading all the other comments I'm admiring the 'Dark Caracas' Celosia. Those leaves are very attractive! Especially with milkweed seeds on them ;-)

    ReplyDelete

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails