Sunday, July 26, 2009
It's so great to spot a number of photos of one of my favorite wild flowers popping up on blogs right now. Milkweed, or asclepias, comes in a lot of different varieties and here on WillOaks Farm, we have the common variety and two colors of "swamp milkweed"-- pink, which is the wild version and white, which I've cultivated in the flower garden.
My love affair with this plant began back in graduate school when I was intent on harvesting its' amazing bast fiber to make a kind of translucent paper reminiscent of spider webs. Later, in Iowa, I discovered a large specimen of the common variety in one of my flower beds...and watched in horror as a whole cluster of monarch larvae devoured the whole plant....but ran out of food to finish their transformation to butterflies!
It was then I learned that in Iowa, milkweed was actively eradicated for being a weed that competed with corn fields...and that the future of a part of the cycle of life for the Monarch butterfly was being interrupted. So....I began to cultivate as much Milkweed as I could get away with and soon became a busy nursery for the Monarch butterfly! It was truly exhilarating and it a whole story in itself for a later time.
Fast forward to WillOaks Farm. There was a lot of wild milkweed growing around the farm when I arrived six years ago and I was privileged to witness a Fall migration of Monarch butterflies through the farm that lasted 2 days...that is a very special treat as they leave the northern areas to winter down in Mexico. Today, I've begun to search for new eggs and new larvae with the hope I can post photos of the whole cycle of life of this magnificent butterfly on a lovely species of plant...so do stay tuned!!