Today I saw a monarch butterfly feed from our marsh milkweed (asclepias incarnata) for the first time this season–it was lovely. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and then their larvae eat it. Last fall I blew the silky seeds from the pods, thinking they’d take root all over the neighborhood. Nope–they had a different idea. They sprouted in the front of my garden beds, so I now have these 4-foot-high milkweed plants bobbing and waving in the wind like those blow-up guys in front of car dealerships. I didn’t have the heart to tear them out, so I have let them be–I will transplant them after they bloom.
Because of the proliferation of Monsanto’s RoundUp-ready genetically modified crops and milkweed’s susceptibility to glyphosate (generic name for RoundUp), milkweed is being eradicated from millions of acres here in the Midwest, causing a decline in the monarch butterfly population.
I have had this pink marsh milkweed, which is now a well-established clump and multiplying, for a couple of years. I bought a white variety this spring at Garden Heights Nursery and put it in a different part of my garden. Although the plants are doing well, no flowers have appeared yet.
My friend, Anne, encouraged me to plant “Dallas Red” lantana in my pots, saying it would attract hummingbirds and butterflies–what a great recommendation! The traffic around these pots has been nonstop.
Other butterfly attractions in my garden that have done well despite the drought are bloodflower (an annual milkweed–asclepias curassavica–that reseeds, another Anne recommendation), butterfly bush, cardinal flower, liatris, coneflower, and zinnia.