A TIME EXISTED WHEN I CONSIDERED milkweed a weed as noted in the second syllable of the word. My dad assured me that the plant needed eradication from farm fields. So out it went.
Decades later and more informed, I consider the milkweed valuable, a plant to be appreciated and not yanked from the earth. Through the years, we learn a thing or two or twenty.
I’ve learned that the milkweed is necessary to the survival of the Monarch butterfly. Adult female Monarchs lay their eggs on one plant—milkweed. And the resulting caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves.
I remember a time when Monarchs were many. Through the years, as milkweed plants dwindled, so did the numbers of these beautiful orange and black butterflies.
But now people are beginning to care, to understand the importance of growing milkweed, me among them.
In Stockholm, Wisconsin, Russ the bookseller continues as a strong advocate of milkweeds and Monarchs. I first met him during a 2011 visit and recently returned to find this shopkeeper still advocating for Monarchs. And growing milkweeds.
At Seed Savers Exchange just north of Decorah, Iowa, I spotted packets of milkweed seeds among the many seeds sold in the farm’s retail shop.
At the recent Valley Grove Country Social near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, a representative of the Northfield Prairie Partners Chapter of Wild Ones handed out envelopes of milkweed seeds and information on Monarchs and milkweeds.
Beyond all of that, I find milkweed pods beautiful in shape and, when fully-ripened, like art erupting. I am repeatedly drawn to photograph the wisps of fluff embedded with seeds. Seeds that will naturally fly on the wind, fall to the earth and grow new plants. Or, when harvested, shared by those who care about an orange and black butterfly. Like Russ in Stockholm.
TELL ME: Do you grow milkweed for Monarchs?
© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling