It looked to be milkweed. I let it grow where it shouldn’t have been, knowing the Monarch butterflies depend on it for survival.
For several years now, I’ve been meaning to plant some milkweed, the only host plant to Monarch caterpillars. Each year has passed without me planting any. We have plenty of nectar plants to attract Monarchs, and a host of others as well, and I knew there was milkweed nearby in a vacant lot. Their needs to survive and to reproduce were covered, but, I looked forward to having milkweed nearby, to see the eggs, then watch the caterpillars as this lovely insect’s cycle kept on.
What looked to be milkweed is, indeed, milkweed and I was as excited as a schoolgirl getting her first “A” in biology when I found several eggs on the back of a leaf Saturday afternoon.
One of our wonderfully dedicated garden club members, Pat, aka The Butterfly Lady, raises Monarch butterflies and has ventured on several trips to the Monarch’s overwintering spots in Mexico. She and fellow member Jane have not only enlightened our club about these beautifully winged insects, but, they give talks to schools and other garden clubs. They have also been instrumental in guiding many other organizations and individuals in establishing credited Monarch Waystations throughout the area. I am proud to know Jane, who initiated the Monarch Sustenance Project in our garden club, and Pat, whose tender nurturing is admirable and I appreciate how much they have enriched my life and the lives of other.
Monarch Waystations are designated areas where nectar plants, water, and the essential milkweed are established to help the monarch population thrive and act, as well, as an oasis during migration.
On Sunday morning, camera in hand, I set out on a mission to photograph the Monarch eggs. As I gazed down upon the plant, my hopes of some pictures were dashed in a second. There it stood, as it did the day before, tall and determined, as milkweed are prone to be, and there, upon its sturdy stalk, was the evidence of the cruelty of nature. One, and only one, milky leaf had been eaten off of the plant, the handiwork of deer. The leaf that was gone was the one upon which the eggs were laid. I was devastated.
With Irene raging against New England, wars being fought, fires burning, droughts strangling much of a continent, can one eager lady be truly distraught on a pleasant Sunday morning over a few Monarch eggs?
There I stood, camera shuttered, mouth agape, lower lip trembling, wondering why, of all the leaves ripe for the picking, a ravenous deer would choose just this one.