A writer inspired by nature and human nature

Weed Appreciation Day, March 28—is on its way—and so are those amazing monarch butterflies! It’s the perfect time of year to plant milkweed to ensure the survival of these endangered butterflies as they embark on the journey north from wintering grounds in Mexico. My limerick tells a bit about the monarchs’ dependence upon milkweed. The photo of his female monarch (Danaus plexippus) on a milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) was taken in my garden in Central Maine, where milkweed plants flourish and monarchs can find the perfect leaves to lay their eggs under each summer. Read on to find out more about milkweed and the crucial relationship this native plant shares with monarchs and how you can help these endangered butterflies by planting milkweed in your own backyard.

Why Do Monarch Butterflies Need Milkweed?

  • Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies. Monarchs have a dynamic relationship with plants in the milkweed family and are completely dependent on them for reproduction. Butterflies are the reproductive phase of their life cycle. Females lay their eggs on the undersides of milkweed leaves because when the eggs hatch and the caterpillars emerge, their only source of food is the foliage of milkweed plants. The growing caterpillars feed on the leaves until they are ready to form a chrysalis and metamorphose into adult butterflies.

Mating of monarch butterflies has begun and the orange and black butterflies are flying north. Along the way, females will lay eggs on milkweed plants, recolonizing the southern United States before they die. The first spring caterpillars will hatch and metamorphose into adults. These newly emerged monarchs colonize their parents original homes. Summer monarchs live only three to five weeks compared with the eight or nine months for overwintering adults. During the summer, three or four generations of monarch butterflies will emerge, and before summer ends there will be millions of monarchs all over the United States and southern Canada.

You can play an important role in the survival of  monarch butterflies by planting the correct native variety of milkweed in your yard or garden. Learn how to create a Monarch Waystation in your own backyard and report your monarch sightings too. Helping our monarch butterflies is a great service project for families, community groups and schools. Contact Monarch Watch (an educational outreach based at the University of Kansas): www.monarchwatch.org

About the author 

Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies—an endangered species (and for milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Stevens is the author of AMAZING MATILDA, an award-winning picture book adventure that follows the life cycle of a monarch butterfly; The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!, a home/school resource  incorporating hands-on math and writing; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to her début novel, DOG BONE SOUP—coming-of-age story and family drama set in 1950s and 60s New England.

[Explore Bette’s Blog]



Comments on: "HAPPY WEED APPRECIATION DAY—I’m Celebrating”Milkweed for Monarch Butterflies”" (41)

  1. I love your limerick! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!

  2. At my last two houses I had large butterfly gardens. I loved my purple and yellow milkweed varieties. Living in a patio home now, we only have small areas for gardens. I’m still working on the shrub part and will start planting more perennials this year. I don’t get enough sun for milkweed though.

    • With plenty of land, finding sunny spots to plant is no problem here on the farmstead. I’m going to start some butterfly plant seeds (not milkweed) this week to add to our perennials and hope they’ll survive Maine winters. We’ll see… Happy gardening, Michelle! <3 xo

  3. Oh, thanks for the article, Bette! That’s so awesome! I will keep my fingers crossed for some beautiful royal visitors!! Have an amazing spring too! xoxo ❤

  4. Thanks so much, Sarah, 🙂 An author friend, Geoff Le Pard shared this news with me:
    “the best most exciting thing, to me as a British butterfly lover, is the thought that, occasionally when the gods and the winds align, we will be visited by Monarchs in Britain, having flown the Atlantic, all 3500 miles of it, resting on waves and ships before making land. Go monarch!
    https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/naturestudies/nature-studies-cross-the-atlantic-in-a-ship-the-beautiful-monarch-can-do-better-than-that-8617346.html ” Enjoy the article and keep on the lookout for those Royal Visitors! <3 Wishing you an amazing spring, Sarah! xo

  5. I so wished for monarch butterflies here in Europe! Hope many people are going to plant milkweed this year – I definitely would!! 😊 xoxo ❤

  6. I love your limerick Bette! You really are so gifted in all things poetry. ♥

  7. I love Monarch butterflies. We always have visitations during the summer months, but I had no idea that they depended on Milkweed. Also, very interesting that the overwintering adults live much longer than the summer Monarchs. A fascinating post, Bette!

    • Thanks, Mae. <3 So good to hear that you've learned more about our amazing monarchs and their plight. Have a beautiful day and may your summer be blessed with many monarchs! xo

  8. Thank you for this valuable information, Bette. I love the limerick. xo

  9. Reblogged this on Viv Drewa – The Owl Lady.

  10. Not the other kind of weed, huh? Ha ha. Lovely and informative post, Bette. We need to do all we can to help our butterflies.

    • Thanks, Diana. 🙂 Cheers to monarch butterflies and all of our amazing pollinators–we need them and they need us!. Wishing you a most lovely day, my friend. xo

  11. Such a lovely post in, oh, so many ways, Bette. Educational, entertaining, gorgeous photo. And there’s ‘Got Milkweed?’ A serious subject, but I did have a wee chuckle 🙂 ❤

    • Thanks, Tina. Glad it got you chuckling… I’ve been thinking about using “If you plant it, they will come.” Maybe for Earth Month/Day, coming soon. 🙂 <3 Blessings and love… xo

  12. the best most exciting thing, to me as a British butterfly lover, is the thought that, occasionally when the gods and the winds align, we will be visited by Monarchs in Britain, having flown the Atlantic, all 3500 miles of it, resting on waves and ships before making land. Go monarch!

    • Thanks so much for sharing this amazing article. I hadn’t imagined that some of those magnificent monarchs managed to make it across the Atlantic for a royal visit. It’s a small world after all… Cheers! 🙂

  13. I haven’t been able to get milkweed to grow, though I’ve planted it three times. i think we don’t get enough sun. I’m going to try again THIS year, but if this fails, I’ll probably give up. I also don’t think we are on the butterfly route. They fly closer to the coast. They were huge on Long Island in New York.

    • We’re about 45 miles from the coast and our milkweed gets plenty of sunshine. Before I had milkweed growing in my garden, I hadn’t spotted a single monarch, even though milkweed grows profusely along the roadsides here. So glad those amazing monarchs like my ‘weedy’ gardens. Generally, I manage to sight a dozen or more lunching there and have even seen three pair of monarchs dancing between the farmstead and the pines across the road. Hope that your milkweed takes hold and the monarchs come… Still plenty of snow needs melting up here–it’s been a long, cold winter and we’re ready for spring to get sprung. 🙂 Sending lots of love your way, Marilyn! xo

  14. How interesting, Bette! I didn’t know that about Monarchs. And I need some milkweed for my yard to get some Monarchs to come and visit. Loved your limerick! Very clever. And the thought of any kind of plants growing and seeing butterflies makes my heart flutter!

    • So glad you stopped by to visit the monarchs and learn about milkweed, Molly! May your garden glitter and your heart flutter with many of these exquisite monarchs. They’re unlike any other with their orange and black wings catching the summer sun–nature’s stained-glass windows. Cheers! <3 xo

  15. Bette, your blog title certainly grabbed my attention! Weed? LOL
    Your butterfly poem is beautiful. And thank you for enlightening me about “milkWEED”. Grin. <3

    • Thanks so much for stopping by to check out milkWEED, Tracy. It’s one of those native plants (a.k.a. weeds) that drive many gardeners and farmers crazy, but how our wonderful pollinators love it. Trying to get the word out… <3 Wishing you a lovely week, dear Tracy! xo

  16. May the milkweed grow everywhere so that monarchs can live. I was excited to see a monarch last summer around my rose of Sharon bushes. They are gorgeous!
    I will check the link on growing milkweed.
    Thanks for sharing this info on Monarchs.
    Hugs xx 🦋

    • Cheers for milkweed and Monarchs! <3 Delighted you spotted one of our royal visitors on your Rose of Sharon, Janice. They are such exquisite creatures; here's hoping 2018 will find them flourishing once again. xo

  17. A delightful poem, Bette, and a really interesting post.

  18. Thanks for this informative piece Bette, you are so kind!

  19. I have milkweed in my garden. Once you plant it, will return every year.

  20. How informative! Never thought I could love a weed! AND, I do love Monarchs! And, Bette! ♥

Thanks so much for stopping by to join the conversation.

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