In a previous blog, I mentioned the Whorled Milkweed. Even though there are 72 native milkweeds throughout North America, of which 7 are native to Ontario, we only ever see 3 types being offered for sale by growers and garden centers. Why? In most instances, the other varieties of milkweed had been eliminated from the landscape. We decided to bring some of these species back.
One of the first reintroductions was the Whorled Milkweed. Germination of this plant was great and it grew well. We were delighted to enter on our online inventory 80 plants for sale…….then the Monarchs found us. They laid eggs, not once, not twice, but three times on these new plants. In frustration, I had to tarp the plants to discourage any further egg laying by the Monarchs and pull the 80 plants from the inventory.
So by pooling our observations and doing some research we began to understand the Monarchs behaviour. Firstly, most butterflies will lay eggs on tender, young plants and growth compared to older plants. The Whorled Milkweed has very slender, tender leaves that the Monarch find undeniable. The female butterfly seeks this kind of milkweed out even though swamp, butterfly weed and upland milkweed are present.
The Monarch and nature taught us some lessons this year and we will be more prepared to grow Whorled Milkweed next spring. Who knows, maybe next year we might even be able to sell it!