Category Archives: Milkweed

The Traveling Terrarium

No, That is Not a Monarch Caterpillar on Your Carrot Plant

anderson-family-copyright-kim-smith

By far the most popular post on my Kim Smith Designs website is titled “No, That is Not a Monarch Caterpillar on Your Parsley Plant.” It has been the most trafficked post for several years, if you can believe it, and here is why.

Last fall, almost exactly to the day, through my office window I heard the sound of sweet voices on our front porch, well after dark, and wondered what our neighborhood dog walkers were doing out so late. It wasn’t dog walkers, but our neighbor Sharon and her son Treely, wondering what to do with what they thought was a Monarch caterpillar they had found in their garden. I sent them on their way with one of our terrariums and instructions on how to care for their little Black Swallowtail caterpillar.

Treely’s Black Swallowtail caterpillar turned into a chrysalis (in other words, pupated), spent the winter in the terrarium in a sheltered spot outdoors, and then emerged right on schedule this past spring. The Dowds returned the terrarium as it was needed later in the summer for our Cecropia Moth caterpillars.

Imagine how sweetly funny to get a call from my friend Michelle, wondering what to do with their newly discovered Monarch caterpillar. My first question to Michelle was did she find the caterpillar on her milkweed? No, she reported, it was found on carrot foliage. Michelle and her children, Meadow and Atticus, along with friend Sabine, stopped by this afternoon to learn about how to take care of their tiny little Black Swallowtail caterpillar and I sent them on their way with the ‘traveling terrarium.’

If you find a caterpillar in your garden, the first clue to identifying is to see on what food plant they are munching. Caterpillars that are actively feeding are usually only found on their larval host plant(s), the plant they have developed a distinctive coevolutionary relationship with over millennia. For example, female Monarch butterfly caterpillars deposit their eggs only on members of the milkweed family. Black Swallowtail caterpillars eat the foliage only from plants in the carrot family, which includes carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, parsnips, and Queen Anne’s lace. You may have noticed if ever weeding Queen Anne’s lace that the root looks identical in shape to a carrot, only it is white.

Chances are, you will never find a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on you milkweed plants and conversely, you will never find a Monarch caterpillar on your carrot plant (or parsley, dill, or fennel).

I am excited to hear from Michelle and the kids how their little caterpillar is developing over the next few weeks!

Advertisements

Many Thanks to the Positively Most Awesome Community Ever!

The Cape Ann Monarch Milkweed Project was positively a resounding success. Thank you to everyone who ordered and picked up your milkweed plants. Thank you to Joe Ciaramitaro from Good Morning Gloucester blog who turned my small seed of an idea into a fabulous community-wide project and who also very kindly offered Captain Joe and Sons for mug up and pick up. Thank you to Felicia for taking valuable time from writing the world’s-greatest-cookbook-ever and spending the entire morning making and serving coffee and Sicilian gigilani cookies (I know that is totally misspelled) and for helping with the plants and for just being a great friend. Thank you to all my GMG fellow contributors and all the FOBs for coming, and for everyone’s enthusiasm in the project.

And, most importantly, the Monarchs thank you!!!

We have exactly fourteen plants remaining and all fourteen are spoken for. After all the plants are picked up and the money totaled, we will have enough to make a donation to the Rocky Neck Cultural Center. So thank you again. I am very inspired by the success of the program and plan to later in the summer have a Cape Ann Monarch Aster and Goldenrod Program.

Monarch Butterfles Eastern Point Gloucester MA © Kim Smith 2012Monarch Butterflies at Eastern Point

How to Plant and Care for Your Milkweed Plants

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) has a taproot. Plants with taproots do not like to be disturbed once established so it is best to plant your Common Milkweed seedlings as soon as possible. Common Milkweed is not too fussy about soil and is the milkweed we see growing in fields, roadsides, dunes, and meadows. It can reach up to six-feet in height, but more commonly grows two- to four-feet. Common Milkweed spreads by underground shoots and by seed dispersal.

The Marsh Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are well-rooted year-old plants and can be planted in the garden now, or within the next month or so. Marsh Milkweed grows best in good garden soil and/or moist areas. Marsh Milkweed is clump forming and does not spread by underground shoots.

Both milkweed species prefer full sun, but will take some slight shade. Plant with the soil line equal to the soil line in the pot. Place a stake nearby so that you do not step on your little milkweed seedling. Water gently. Check frequently on your milkweed plant until it is fully established. Water when dry, but do not over water. Monitor for milkweed aphids. Milkweed aphids are tiny soft-bodied orange insects. If you do see any aphids, gently wash them away with water; no soap or strong pesticides needed!

Milkweed seed pod bl:wh ©Kim Dmith 2012

Monarch-Milkweed Mug Up This Saturday!

Hooray–our milkweed plants shipped from Missouri Monday and should arrive to Gloucester by Thursday!!!

Plants will be available for pick up at Captain Joe and Sons, 95 East Main Street, Saturday morning at 9:00am and we will be there all morning until noon. Felicia is helping and we will have coffee for everyone. Written instructions will be provided on how to take care of your plants.  Looking forward to seeing you all at the first ever Monarch~Milkweed Mug Up!

I did not collect the funds ahead of time. Please everybody,  if you ordered plants, be sure to pick-up Saturday morning. I am counting on you!! If the project is successful, we will do this again later in the season, with Seaside Goldenrod and New England Asters, but we can only have another plant sale if everyone honors their commitment. Thank you!! 

For more detailed information, see previous posts:

GloucesterCast Podcast 4/25/13 With Guest Kim Smith

Cape Ann Milkweed Project

Cape Ann Milkweed Project ~ Last day to order plants

WOW and WONDERFUL—150 milkweed plants ordered!!! (Actually, 190 plants were ordered!!)

How Exactly is Monsanto’s Roundup Ravaging the Monarch Butterfly Population?

News Release: MONARCH WATCH ANNOUNCES ‘BRING BACK THE MONARCHS’ CAMPAIGN

Monarch Butterfly Marsh Milkweed ©Kim Smith 2011Monarch Butterfly and Marsh Milkweed