Happy Fall! Many are posting photos of colorful leaves.
The leaves here will not change for a long time.
Instead, our Fall color comes from blooming plants that have woke up from their summer “sleep”, when it was just too hot to make a flower.
We don’t have flaming foliage, so these flaming tropicals will have to do.
Click on the photos to enlarge.
I spotted this Monarch caterpillar crawling on a large clay pot. It was far from the Butterfly Weed, so I thought I would keep an eye on it.
The caterpillar climbed up to the rim and attached itself. Look closely for the nearly invisible thread.
For some reason that did not seem right, so the caterpillar dropped to the ground.
It crawled around for quite awhile and headed up a stick for a better view.
Finally, it settled for this plastic net that is protecting a plant. And yes, I did spend quite a long time watching this caterpillar crawl around. It is their habit to leave the plant they feed on and form a chrysalis elsewhere and are usually hard to find.
And in no time the caterpillar was in its chrysalis. Sadly, I missed the process and when I checked hours later, it was done.
About the time it should have hatched, a beautiful Monarch Butterfly was hanging on a nearby brick wall drying its wings and the chrysalis was gone.
And the circle of life begins again with a female Monarch depositing her eggs. I like to think it was the same one that hatched, but there is no way to tell. She checked out all the plants and made sure the eggs were laid only on Butterfly Weed.
Apparently other Monarchs had stopped by and on the same day, I found a tiny caterpillar barely a half of an inch long starting on its journey.
This year has already started well for the butterfly population in my area and many more have been stopping by than in past few years.
There has been much concern about the dwindling numbers of Monarch Butterflies. An organization called Monarch Watch has been encouraging everyone to plant Milkweed, also know as Butterfly Weed.
I have been planting Butterfly Weed all over the yard. Unfortunately, a beetle has shown up the last few years and has eaten almost all the plants I grew. This year I am trying to collect the bugs daily for disposal, as any kind of spraying will also kill the Monarchs.
I was pleased to find many very fat and healthy Monarch Caterpillars on the Butterfly Weed. This one is eyeing his competition.
My main purpose for planting Butterfly Weed is to feed caterpillars. The plants tend to look pretty bad after awhile. Interestingly, the plants contain a chemical called cardiac glycoside that cause birds to vomit. By eating the leaves, the caterpillars are protected from birds.
I find that rabbits and deer also avoid the plant. The most common Butterfly Weed grown here is Asclepias tuberosa, which is tropical/Mexican Butterfly Weed.
The plants produce seed pods filled with seeds attached to fluffy floss that allows them to drift in the wind to a new location.
I recently found out that Milkweed floss had an important role in World War II. School children from all over the country were sent out to collect the seed pods to make life vests for Navy sailors. Milkweed in the northern U.S. is much larger than the ones that grow in the South and were found growing in fields and along the roads. The seeds were removed and the floss was used to stuff the vests.
I find it hard to imagine that these vest would stay afloat for long, but I guess that is what they had back then. While researching, I also found an article with instructions for making a down-like coat using the Milkweed floss for the insulation. As it turns out, this “weed” is not only necessary for Monarchs, but humans have also found uses for it.
The Butterfly Weed pods have been popping open, revealing seeds attached to their silks waiting for the right moment to fly.
I have been away from the garden for quite awhile and as everyone knows what that means, weeds, weeds and more weeds. The photo is of just one small patch.
Plants need to be cut back for spring growth. There is plenty of work to do.
The new rose was not put into the ground, but is still alive and greeted me with a bloom.
The Automatic Garden did its job and flowered on its own. The reliable Salvias are loaded with blooms, ready for the arrival of hummingbirds and bees.
The Butterfly Weed is sending out its seeds and the Marigolds that were just tiny seedlings are blooming. The bulbs have bloomed and shrubs are sporting flowers.
The biggest surprise was the Tassel Flower that I have struggled with for two years. It has formed two colonies of the plant. Maybe sometimes it is better not to be around to baby the plants and let the Automatic Garden do its thing.
Today I am flashing back to some beautiful Butterfly Weed seed pods. All the conditions were right for this dramatic opening of the pods and the wind was not blowing.
It is always surprising that the tiniest flowers seem to have the most nectar. These teeny Coleus blooms are a favorite of bees and hummingbirds.
The largest of these blooms are barely an inch long. Pictured is a white Russelia, Penta, and a purple and red Salvia.
The yellow flowers are Cassia Tree and Thryallis Shrub. The little orange button is Tassel Flower and on the right is a yellow and a red Butterfly Weed. These flowers are usually full of all kinds of bees and frequently visited by hummingbirds. The flowers may be small, but they can certainly produce.