Isn’t it beautiful? Do you have this in your garden? I let milkweed grow around my potato patch. I yank it if it starts growing inside the fence, but around the perimeter, it’s just fine. This is, of course, common milkweed, or asclepias syriaca.
I think the flowers smell wonderful. I just wish the plants didn’t have a tendency to fall over in a strong wind.
Milkweed is not only crucial to the monarch butterfly, it is also important to other pollinators like the bee in the photo on the right. It seems that people are destroying milkweed at an alarming rate, and there are campaigns to save and propagate the plants.
Milkweed is the only plant the monarch butterfly lays its eggs on, and it’s the only thing the monarch caterpillars eat. At this time of year in Rhode Island, you can often find the small whitish eggs on the undersides of milkweed leaves. When the caterpillars eat the leaves, they ingest the “milk” or latex, which renders them inedible for most predators. They’ll chomp away for about three weeks before entering the pupa stage, and will grow 2,700 times their original size during this period! Below is a photo I took of a monarch caterpillar on one of the milkweed plants in my garden. It didn’t take much effort on my part to provide a place for it to eat and grow.