Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Milkweeds flourish at River Bend July 23, 2021

Bees feed on a milkweed flower at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

IN MY MESS OF FLOWERBEDS, which are anything but orderly, random milkweeds grow. Some sprouted in the lawn. Others simply popped up among the phlox and ferns and iris and greenery, seeds blown by the wind, dropping to the ground, rising now toward the sun.

Milkweeds thrive on the prairie at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Back in the days of my youth, I would have yanked these milkweeds from the soil under the direction of my farmer father. Remove those weeds from the corn and soybean fields. I know better now. Milkweed plants are essential to the monarch butterfly.

I love the dusty hue of the common milkweed. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

The milkweed is the host plant for the monarch. They lay eggs on the leaves, the larvae then feeding on those leaves.

The milkweed attracts more than just monarchs. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Without milkweeds, the monarch would become extinct.

Butterfly milkweed, although much less abundant, also grows at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

More and more, if you take note, you will see milkweeds growing. At River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, fields of common milkweed, dusty pink in color, grow, as do some of the more flashy orange butterfly milkweed.

The exceedingly brilliant butterfly milkweed, up close. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I appreciate the value of this plant in the natural cycle, in sustaining the monarch butterfly population. This is but one example of how we are all intertwined. Every creature. One dependent on the other.

Milkweed and flowers flourish on the River Bend prairie. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I marvel at this intricate world God created. I love to watch a monarch butterfly flit through the air, settle on a blossom, drink its fill of nectar, then rise and fly. Delicate, yet sturdy. Dependent on milkweed and other flowers, yet free.

What a lovely and beautiful sight in a world where beauty is too often missed in the busyness of life, among all the weeds.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “Milkweeds flourish at River Bend”

  1. beth Says:

    so pretty, Audrey –

  2. Lovely post, Audrey. ❤

  3. Valerie Bollinger Says:

    Beautiful post Audrey. Thanks.

  4. You must know that different varieties of milkweeds bloom throughout the Spring and Summer making it a critical for the many generations of Monarchs that develop in that short( by human standards) time period. Any variation in the supply or variety can hinder the Monarch in the future summer generations and could cause a catastrophic breakdown of the entire Monarch population.

    • Thank you for sharing that info about milkweed and monarchs, Paula. You know more than me. I’m always grateful to learn.

      • The summer I spent working as a Park Ranger and doing interpretive classes on Monarchs helps.😊 I learned a good deal more than I knew before I taught those classes. It is amazing how much goes on in nature.

      • I just learned something new about you, that you worked as a park ranger. I appreciate your knowledge shared here.

      • 😂🤣 it is true! In the summer of 2015 I worked for the USACE at Big Sandy. Loved some of the job but hated dealing with drunk rude people, who usually ruined the outdoor experience for other campers.

      • I’m sorry you had to deal with those drunk, rude people. I remember camping in sw MN once with our family and a group of partying young people kept us awake. The next morning we reported them and they were promptly kicked out. Way too early for them, I’m sure. This was in a county park without an overnight “supervisor.”

      • Believe me, being a Park Ranger and having to enforce rules and deal with (mostly drunk guys) was not glamorous and the pay for dealing with all that was totally not enough! Anti social behavior in any public space should not be tolerated by anyone!!!

      • I can only imagine the situations you had to face and problem solve.

  5. My daughter and grands, raise monarchs from the egg. Milkweed is essential so they know all the spots….even at the cabin. Love the close up photo’s Audrey especially the one with bees!

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