Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Cabbage Whites

“If you grow it, they will come” has become my favorite saying (Yeah, riffing off of If you Build it, They Will Come). Monarchs were attracted to a milkweed plant that planted itself in the crack of my driveway several years ago.

I let a supply of milkweed grow every year, just for the monarchs that stop by. One neighbor is not pleased about this, he grew up on a farm and had to keep milkweed under control in the farm hedgerows when young. I have taken his warning and limit the number of common milkweed allowed to inhabit my back yard, but leave enough for the visiting monarchs. (I am also interested in the milkweed gosamer from the seed pods and am looking into it for use as insulation in clothing. I stuffed a vest with it last winter and it is very warm. Said gossamer was also used in WWII for filling life preservers, as we were at war with our kapok suppliers in the South Pacific. Elementry students were put to collecting milkweed pods and it was processed at a plant in Muskegon, Mich.) Monarchs will eat only milkweed and they leave eggs that will hatch into pupae, eat the leaves, and pupate into beautiful butterflies that will stay until they fly away.

I would note here: there are websights by folk who keep track of monarch migration. Monarchs find a warm place to winter. I seem to be in the Eastern zone, I’m fairly sure the monarchs that visit here winter in Florida.

Last year, my friend raised some button bush (Caphalanthus occidentalis). The seed was aquired from Lake Orion, (not from around the lake, but from in it) slightly North of here, and he gave me some little plants that remain for now in my wild plant nursery. Even in my nursery close to the house, in pots on cement, butterflies (or moths) have found the button bush, laid eggs. Two kinds of little caterpillars have been observed by me recently, chomping the leaves.

Button bush is native to our area, has deep roots, and is recommended for native plantings and rain gardens. I will keep some of it up hill in the sun, as it likes sun. Button Bush will not bloom so much in the shade, say plant sights, but I will try putting some of the young ones by the creek, hoping the roots will go deep and find the water. I will open up the canopy a bit for it, maybe put in some more red ozier dogwood there too.

Sure enough, I have seen two types of caterpillars chomping on the leaves of the young button bush. There are holes in all of the young leaves. Could the catterpillars be little sphinx moths?

Here is what the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has to say about button bush:


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