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Sunday, September 7, 2014
Ok, so let me get this straight. You want me to buy a plant with the explicit goal that it will be eaten down to a stub by caterpillars. This act of wanton herbivory goes against everything I was taught about horticulture. In gardening plants are the goal. Right? Well, maybe not. Monarch caterpillars are the perfect gateway bug to the world of habitat gardening. The purposeful act of planting milkweeds in our gardens conveys the courage of our conviction to help monarch butterflies continue.
Luckily many milkweed species exist as good options for our gardens. The name milkweed refers to plants in the genus Asclepias. Milk in milkweed refers to the milky sap exuded if stems or leaves are broken. Monarch butterflies must have milkweed plants to serve as buffet and nursery for their caterpillars. Despite their porky appearance, monarch caterpillars are picky eaters and only feed on milkweed leaves. So take a good look at this picture of monarch caterpillars devouring the leaves of common milkweed; the chewed leaves and even the caterpillar poop. Keep repeating to yourself, "this is a good thing, this is a good thing, this is a good thing"