From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Milkweed Pods

Seeds bursting out, just as they should



Milkweed pod bursting openMilkweed seeds ready to fly away

This milkweed plant, growing in the ditch, reminds me of walking home from country school when I was a child.

In the fall when the weather was nice, I was either reading a book as I walked along, or I was watching for interesting stuff in the ditches.

I loved the milkweed plants when their pods burst open and their seeds spilled out into the wind. The fuzz on their seeds was as soft and delicate as a fairy's wings. Later, when the seeds had flown away, the dried pods were very smooth on the inside.

I still like milkweeds. I suppose some people would call them weeds, but I call them wildflowers. Their blossoms have a lovely fragrance. Smell one, and you'll understand why the butterflies love milkweeds. Bees like them, too.

With all those wind-borne seeds, I suspect that milkweeds are sometimes called invasive, but I don't really care. More milkweeds means more bees and butterflies. In fact, the very existence of Monarch butterflies is dependent on milkweeds.

During the summer, female monarchs look for milkweed plants in meadows, along roadsides, and abandoned farmers' fields of the northern United States and southern Canada. Females lay their eggs only on milkweed plants, and each female lays about 400 clear green oval eggs. The monarch egg is no bigger than the head of a pin, and is attached to the underside of a milkweed leaf. Within a few days, the egg hatches and a yellow, black and white striped caterpillar emerges, beginning its life cycle.

Source: Monarch Butterfly Facts


This article also explains that a certain chemical accumulates in the Monarch caterpillars as they eat the milkweed leaves. It produces the bad flavor that later helps to protect Monarch butterflies from being eaten.

I'm happy to see the milkweed pods exploding into seed again. It reassures me that some things are still right in this world.

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2 comments:

ptg said...

I use the fragrant blossoms for a room deodorizer and car freshener. For a weed, the handsome plants are hard to cultivate.

Genevieve said...

They are impossible to transplant because they have a long, brittle taproot. I guess you have to start them from seed in the place where you want to grow them. I wouldn't mind having a few milkweed plants somewhere.

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