Tag Archives: milkweeds for monarchs

Monarch Time Is Here

The announcement that monarch time is here at my place is the common milkweed plants. They come up as soon as the ground warms enough.

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed plants to raise their caterpillars. The Missouri Department of Conservation urges landowners and homeowners to plant milkweeds to aid the butterflies.

common milkweed sprout
Common milkweed sprouts are much larger and a lighter green than the grass they often grow up through. They grow quickly gaining several inches a day.

This is also the time of grass seeding. The pasture grass is close to three feet high so the goats vanish except for their ears. The grass gets tall along the roads too and the mowing crews come out.

In this rural area most roads have ditches on either side several feet away from the pavement. Ditches are prime habitat for common milkweeds. Yet the road crews mow them down even though they purport to support the monarch initiative to grow more milkweeds.

group of common milkweed sprouts getting ready for monarch time
Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, spreads through gemniferous roots, a term coined by Woodson in 1948. The root structure was confirmed by Dr. Richard Rintz. This habit lets the plants migrate from one location to another and increases the number of stalks forming large patches which are very impressive in full bloom.

Road crews are not the only culprits. Landowners too insist on turning their ditches into golf courses.

One problem is that many people don’t know what a young milkweed plant looks like. This is true of road crews and Conservation people as well.

common milkweed plant
This common milkweed plant is a little over three feet tall heading toward five to six feet when mature. The leaves are opposite and alternate directions at intervals along the stalk. The leaves can be eight inches long and half that wide.

Monarch time is close. These beautiful butterflies are on their way north from central Mexico where they spend the winter.

Common milkweeds don’t make good yard plants as they spread out colonizing new areas. Our big patch has moved about twenty feet over the years. Butterfly weed is a much better choice for a yard plant.

monarch time finds this milkweed plant ready to feed a few caterpillars
At a little over three feet tall this Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, is starting to form flower umbels. The large opposite leaves are easy to see.

Still, common milkweed which can reach six feet tall lined with large umbels of flowers abuzz with wasps, bees, bumblebees and hawkmoths is impressive. They really look nice along a road ditch.

If you have a road ditch, plant some common milkweeds. Then ask the road crew to not mow it until the fall giving the milkweeds time to flower, set seed and store up supplies for the winter. Mowing the flat area near the road gives plenty of visibility.

Monarch time is here. Growing milkweeds is a way to welcome them back for the summer.

For those seriously interested in U.S. milkweeds, look over Asclepias by Dr. Richard Rintz.