First I’d like to say, “Thank you, el Niño.”
I haven’t seen the Llano River or the milkweed and other wildflowers this robust since 2010, the year before the historic Texas drought hit our state.
A weekend in the Texas Hill Country included a series of thunderstorms, warm temperatures and a bounty of roadside milkweed as well as a variety of Asclepias species on our property we haven’t seen in years. Our caterpillars literally had a milkweed buffet awaiting them–four different Asclepias species, the Monarch butterfly host plant.
Antelope horns, Asclepias asperula, made a hearty showing in front of our porch. Under the breezeway deck, a lone Texas milkweed, Asclepias texana, was already sporting blooms. Down the trail, Pearl milkweed vine, Matelea reticulata, the lovely climber that boasts an attractive pearl-dotted flower, snuck up a nearby pencil cactus. Along the banks of the Llano River, Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, the pink-blooming host plant offered hearty stalks, broader-than-usual leaves and new stands in places we’ve never noticed.
Only the Swamp milkweed hosted caterpillars and eggs. The chubby chutes reached out of the Chigger Islands like thin stalks of asparagus. What a heartening improvement over the scrawny plants of the past few years.
Only one Monarch was spotted flying this weekend, but others had obviously passed through since their offspring were observed in various stages–eggs, just-hatched cats, second instar larvae and fifth instar caterpillars ready to bust their stripes and go chrysalis.
The wildflower display along Highways 1871 and 87 around Mason and Fredericksburg was among the most spectacular I’ve seen in recent memory. Some mysterious (to me) newcomers joined the bouquet, like the white flower above showing in our watershed. Anybody know what it is?
Prediction: 2015 will be a fantastic year for butterflies, Monarchs in particular. While the first three months of 2015 clocked as the hottest first quarter in history, it’s been mild and wet in our neck of the woods And that bodes well for butterflies and other pollinators.
- Late But Great Wildflowers to Greet Monarchs and other Pollinators
- Monarch Butterfly News Sparks Extreme Interest in NAtive Milkweeds
- Tropical Milkweed: To Plant it or Not, it’s not a Simple Question
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Launches Milkweed Monitoring Project
- Pollinator PowWow Draws 100s from Texas and Beyong
- Mega-Grower Colorspot to Consider Growing Chemical Free Milkweed
- Q&A with Dr. Lincoln Brower
- Survey: Monarch Butterfly Enthusiasts will Pay More for Clean, Native Milkweeds
- MIlkweed Guide for Central and South Texas
- Endangered Species Act Wrong Tool for the Job of Monarch Butterfly Conservation?
- How to Get Native Milkweed Seeds to Germinate
- How to Raise Monarch Butterflies at Home, Part One