Forward - From the Heartland of Carolina

This is a continuing story of the journey Forward shared by 2 people, Lynne and Tom. Both love to LIVE life to it's fullest, which currently means spending lots of time outdoors, working on various projects from gardens to patios, flowers to vegetables, sunrises and sunsets, birds and woodland critters, and spending time with family. Don't forget to check the monthly archives, and please feel free to leave us a comment so we know you stopped by.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Monarch - Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time ... Ahhhh, the beginning of a good story. Yes, this blog is always about stories ---- from our home, our gardens, our decorating, our lives. We'd like to think that, no matter the subject, you'd find it a good story, no matter the subject... so, this story continues...

Once upon a time,this past August, there was a Monarch Butterfly...

Not unlike this one.

Early one morning, that Monarch fluttered along and spied one of our potted Butterfly Weeds(Asclepias tuberosa) , a variety called Bloodthroat.
After feeding on the flowers for a while, Lady Monarch proceeded to lay some eggs on the leaves. Not just some eggs, but apparently, many eggs. We'd seen the Black Swallowtail do this numerous times on our Parsley, or other leafy herbs, but this was the first time seeing the Monarch begin it's life cycle.

In a few days, the eggs hatched...

In a few more days, as more eggs hatched, that poor Bloodthroat had been stripped clean of its' leaves. It must be stated here that unlike many butterfly species, the Monarch caterpillars only feed on those plants in the Milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae. We had picked these particular plants up at our local Farmer's Market in downtown Clayton, NC earlier this past spring. As stated, soon the plants were leafless..

The caterpillars, now, 2 weeks later, started to wander off from their food source, looking for just that right place to morph into their chrysalis stage. Fortunately, for the one that we were following, it was the edge of the house siding, just a few feet away from the pot that it was hatched on. For a day, it didn't move, then it attached itself to the siding, as I learned later, in a very familiar hanging "J".
It stayed in this position for about 24 hours - maybe a little longer. By this time, we had done some reading up on what was transpiring right outside our side door, mainly information gathered from The Butterfly Site. Soon, in what could maybe best be described as a caterpillar doing the hoochie-coo, and maybe a little Texas two-step thrown in, the caterpillar shed it's striped skin, and in short order, revealed it's final chrysalis stage.

For 10 days, something magical was going on inside that little chrysalis, and then as if a magic wand had been waved, we witnessed the 'birth' of our very first Monarch.

While all this was going on, most of the other caterpillars had wandered off to other morphing locations, which we never found, but there was one sibling caterpillar who decided to allow us to re-witness, in a sequence delayed by a few days, what we were following so closely. Now knowing a little better the timing, we were able to follow along a little more closely, our 2nd hatchling.

After spending a little while stretching and drying it's wings, this one made it's way to the driveway to complete the process in the warmth of the September sun...

About 2 hours later, this Monarch took flight...and wandered about the gardens. How long it it was with us, we're not really sure, because in the ensuing weeks, we saw many of its' siblings...

We did, however, learn quite a bit about the Monarch. Once they reach their breeding grounds, they go through 4 life cycles, of about 6-10 weeks. The fourth, and final cycle, is a remarkable, and most important one. The one we witnessed. For whatever reason, the first three life cycles each year are only meant to create the fourth generation, the generation that migrates to Mexico every year, only to return the following year and start the process all over again.

Tonight (11/13/10), while watching a show on the National Geograpic Channel, originally aired last weekend, a series on Migration, we also learned something very sad. Last winter, it is estimated that almost HALF of the migratory Monarch population was killed due to adverse weather conditions down in Mexico where the Monarch overwinters.

So, here at Heartland Gardens, we did our little part, somewhat unknowingly at the time, to repopulate the decimated Monarch butterfly population. What's cool is, these pictures only reflect a part of what happened from one potted up Butterfly Weed. The clump pictured in the first image had many many more caterpillars...creating many many more Monarchs, that hopefully, are on their way to a much less destructive winter haven this season.

What's cool is, you don't even have to have a garden to help repopulate, like maybe we did, the Wonderful Monarch Butterfly population. While we have our little clump of Orange Butterfly Weed, that was equally stripped of its' leaves, the images above were from little seedlings grown in just a 6" flowerpot. Next year, they will be planted out in the perennial bed, hopefully, becoming a larger host plant, with many more leaves for many more caterpillars.

Oh, that plant posted above that lost all its' leaves? Here's a picture 2 weeks after the Monarchs 'flew the coop'. Since then, it's even filled out even more, and is still blooming, believe it or not... despite already having several nights below freezing.

We're always happy watching, and sometimes, lucky enough to observe the magic that occurs in our yard and gardens. And we enjoy sharing that magic. We hope you've enjoyed the magic in this blog tonight.

Maybe those who stumble across this post will consider finding some Butterfly Weed seed, and someday share their own Once upon a time... story with their friends...

Until next time, from Heartland Gardens
Peace and God Bless...
Tom and Lynne


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great story/blog, guys. Really enjoyed it. So cool!


14/11/10 12:38 PM  
Blogger Helen @ Gardening With Confidence said...

Great photos Tom. Welcome to blogging.

15/11/10 10:14 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Thanks, Snowy and Helen... we do hope to resume posting more regularly now that we're readjusting to life once again.

15/11/10 11:21 PM  
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