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.
Decisions, decisions. What’s your pleasure, Monarch caterpillar? photo by Monika Maeckle
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.
Antelope horns and Indian blanket dotted Highways 1871 and 87 in the Texas Hill Country this weekend. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Texas milkweed, what a trooper–no water, little light, growing under the breezeway. Haven’t seen this one in years. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Along the trail, this Pearl milkweed vine peeked above the mulch to climb a pencil cactus. Can’t wait to see the flowers. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Robust stands of thick Swamp milkweed in new places along the Llano River. Gotta love it. Photo by Monika Maeckle
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.
Two Monarch eggs over easy–well, under the leaves of Swamp milkweed, on the Llano. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Two stages of Monarch caterpillars munch on Swamp milkweed. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Anybody recognize this bloom? Photo by Monika Maeckle
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.
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