Thursday, July 14, 2011

Milkweeds...part 1...the perilous first days of my Sullivant's Milkweed

I bought one spindly Sulllivant's Milkweed at least seven years ago at the Darke County Parks prairie plant sale.  The sale is one of their annual  fund raisers. The plant had  five leaves.

Every day when I went out to get the mail from the mailbox, I stopped and inspected it. One afternoon when I did my inspection, all of the leaves had been chewed off except one. A caterpillar like this one was the culprit.

I love butterflies and this was the caterpillar of a Monarch. What a dilemma. I solved it nicely after a moment's thought. I carefully picked up the caterpillar, carried it up to the flowerbed beside our driveway turn-around, and put it down on a Butterfly Weed leaf.  Butterfly Weed is another milkweed, one that was abundant that year. 

No other caterpillar munched on the Sullivant's Milkweed that year and the next year it was a healthy plant with a dozen leaves.  The third year I had two plants.  The milkweed has continued to settle into the flowerbed until now there are seven stalks.  There would have been more if I hadn't weeded out a few since I want a variety of plants in the bed.

After a day or so, I put the caterpillar in a rinsed out peanut butter jar with a perforated lid, added some Butterfly Weed leaves and brought it into the house. Tom took photos every day as the caterpillar ate and then developed into a chrysalis. More about that episode on another day. The butterfly had the last laugh.

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