Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed

monarch on milkweed

In honor of a woman of intelligence, strength, and grace, my friend Monica, who passed away yesterday, May 1, I offer a tribute to her and the colorful Monarch Butterfly. Thank you for warmth and color and your inimitable sense of style.

Listen: “La Vie en Rose” by any of the greats who’ve tried it on…I like Melody Gardot’s version, but of course, we’d be remiss not to consider the great Edith Piaf, Louis Armstrong, or another younger version like Gardot’s by Madeleine Peyroux.

Sip: Please raise a glass to Monica, and women like her who bring elegance and kindness and birthday cakes and hugs…I suggest a flute of Blanc de Blanc sparkle from our southern California winery, South Coast.

A year ago, I was walking through our neighborhood very purposefully on a route that would take me past my favorite front yard vegetable and flower garden. The esteemed gardener was mulching the yard with magic mushroom compost from Mountain Meadow Mushrooms, and he was kind enough to share a small container of milkweed seeds with me. He had harvested these from his own plants. I brought them home, tucked them into some soil in a sunny spot, watered them, and voila! Milkweed! This spring I separated the milkweed, shared the bounty with my neighbor, Beth, and moved some to the vegetable garden, hoping to attract the butterflies. Beth was lucky enough to have a Monarch lay eggs on her plant. Alas, the single plant was not enough to keep up with the frenetic grazing of the caterpillars that emerged, and we had to “airlift” the exotic beauties across the street to my milkweed. Here are a couple of them snacking:

Monarch caterpillars snacking on milkweed

This morning, one ventured bravely onto a branch I’m using as a bird perch, near the milkweed…I think chyrsalis time may be approaching.

Monarch caterpillar exploring a garden branch...ready to cocoon?

Beth and I have enjoyed tracking their life-cycle at Monarch Butterfly. I’ll update this post over the next few days as we move to the chrysalis stage and then celebrate the butterflies’ emergence.

Yesterday, May 4, one of the caterpillars wiggled its way into a sleeping-bag-like chrysalis…a lot of work and amazing to watch. We just happened to be enjoying coffee and the Sunday New York Times in the garden when the motion caught my eye. Here’s a picture of the miraculous wiggle work:

monarch chrysalis making

Today, May 5, the chrysalis capsule is smooth and compact:

smooth May 5 chrysalis

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