With fall comes the flying of the milkweed seeds. As they catch the wind and sail off toward parts unknown I’m struck by the beauty of the seed’s design. Watching these tufts of fluff take flight brings me joy.
The road I live on has three fields that support milkweed growth. They have full sun exposure and the field edges, where the milkweed grows, is never mowed, plowed under nor sprayed with weed killers. The fields were bought by a land developer a few years ago. One field is gone, it’s now a housing plan and the other two fields are about to follow suit. When this happens the milkweed will be replaced by grass and petunias.
I like petunias just fine but milkweed is important and needs to be preserved. You might be thinking why do we need to save a weed? So glad you asked! Milkweed is the food of choice for monarch butterfly larva.
The monarch butterfly population east of the Rocky Mountains has been on the decline for years. Experts point to the loss of milkweed due to land development and the heavy use of chemical weed killers as sources for the reduced number of butterflies in the U.S.
Monarchs are the only know butterfly to migrate. These butterflies winter in Mexico each year where they have to overcome challenges from both Mother Nature and man. Mexico has set aside 217 square miles of land in the Sierra Madres for monarch habitat. During these winter months the monarchs are at the mercy of the weather. Precipitation followed by a cold snap is a deadly combination for the butterflies. They also face loss of habitat from illegal logging in this region.
We may not be able to control the weather or illegal logging in Mexico but we can plant milkweed seeds. Live Monarch is a milkweed seed exchange. For a small donation of $1 you will receive 50 milkweed seeds. At their website www.livemonarch.com there is a lot of good information about monarchs and milkweed. They also encourage schools to partner with them in planting seeds and spreading awareness.
If you plant a few milkweed seeds in the springtime, you too will be watching tufts of milkweed fluff taking flight next fall. It’s a lovely thing to witness.
by Jill Eudaly
photos by Jill Eudaly