Redux of a Monarch Butterfly’s Favorite Plant, the Common Milkweed

Common milkweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Rock Hall, MD
Just a handful of years ago, who paid much attention to this wildflowering common milkweed? Seen in fields, along roadsides, at the edges of planted fields, it was native, it was seen year after year, and it was just another green plant. Sure it was the host plant of Monarch butterflies, and its nectar was prized by many other butterflies. That was about all for common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.

Not any more. Wishing to be part of a massive effort to support the few Monarchs that we in the East have seen this year, we planted several dozen milkweed seedlings in our garden. Some of those milkweeds have prospered, others remain smaller and spindly. We found our first Monarch caterpillar on the milkweed patch in the front garden, just 3 days ago. We haven’t been able to find it for 2 days now?

Many, myself included, are apprehensive about the ability of these butterflies to reappear strongly in 2015. Tens of thousands of gardeners will replant/nurture their milkweed plants into the coming year, and we will await the arrival of those magnificent Monarchs, flying, it would seem, effortlessly north from their Mexican roosts.

I was in the field at Raccoon Creek State Park this morning, didn’t see a Monarch. You know what? I found myself thinking that at least I have a good collection of Monarch images. Then I thought, OMG! is that how bad it’s become?