Gardening for Butterflies, Birds and Bees forum: Milkweed and Monarchs (is this a young monarch)?

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Name: Terri Osipov
Rome, Georgia (Zone 7b)
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IJsbrandtGA
Jul 30, 2016 8:02 AM CST
I am embarrassed to say that I have tried for two years to grow several different kinds of milkweed (native) and have zero success. It's a weed!!! I want to help the declining monarch population. Yesterday I found these butterflies around my Lantana. Are they maybe juvenile Monarchs? If so...that would seem to indicate that I have milkweed somewhere within these 5 acres, right? I hope? Any help with growing seeds is also appreciated. I feel like such a failure. 😓

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Name: Christie
43016 (Zone 6b)
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cwhitt
Jul 30, 2016 8:38 AM CST
I am not a butterfly expert, but it sure looks to me like it could be a Monarch, so I am going to watch this page to see what the others say. And ... that fact that you attracted this little muchkin in the first place is evidence that you are not a failure and must be doing SOMETHING right! Hurray! I live in a condo and don"t have much room, but we do have a pond with weedy growth around it, so I am interested in learning more about growing milkweed too. I wonder if it would grow in a weedy area by a pond?
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Jul 30, 2016 8:52 AM CST
That pretty Butterfly looks like a Gulf Fritillary to me.

Gulf Fritillary
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Monarch
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Jul 30, 2016 9:11 AM CST

Plants Admin

Yep, Gulf Fritillary.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 30, 2016 10:15 AM CST
Terri, I think you might need to try some different types of milkweed. I'm sure you will be able to find one that will grow where you are.

Your County Extension service might be of help. Also, ask other people around you if they have any growing. If they do, they will be a good source for the right kind of seeds.

Bear in mind also that milkweed plants get eaten right down to the stems when the Monarchs find them. I have it growing wild all around my back yard but seldom see the flowers for more than a few days before the voracious caterpillars eat them up. I interplant them with Gaillardia and Pentas so the bare sticks don't show too badly.
Elaine

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Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
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mellielong
Jul 31, 2016 11:23 AM CST

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Good answers from everyone here! Hurray! Yup, that's a Gulf Fritillary and if you want to see more of them, plant their host plant, Passion Vine (Passiflora spp.). I just wanted to mention that butterflies are adults when they emerge. The juvenile form is the caterpillar. When a butterfly emerges, it will never grow any larger, and won't change pattern except for loss of scales due to age, weather, tangling with predators, etc. I get that question a lot so I thought I'd throw that out there.

Remember, milkweed is also a great nectar plant so it's going to attract many butterflies other than Monarchs. And that's a good thing!
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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Aug 1, 2016 6:48 AM CST
Sadly, we seem to be a bit off the natural migration route here in GA.
So... Even though I plant all the milkweed varieties that I can get my hands on, I don't often host monarch populations.
When I have them though, it's fun.

Here's the juvenile form of the gulf fritillary.
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Re milkweeds....
What specific types have you tried?
If you avoid mowing, I'd totally expect you to start seeing natural populations of milkweeds.

I try to spot my milkweeds, and protect them... Unfortunately the deer and rabbits eat butterflyweed, and when I plant it in the veggie garden, sometimes the voles eradicate entire stands of it.

Growing naturally on my property, I've spotted both yellow flowering and orange flowering asclepias tuberosa, also whorled milkweed, and asclepias amplexicaule.
I've brought in several mateleas, and even tropical milkweed (which died in my dry sand) and common milkweed, which barely grows.

So... Not surprising that you're having a bit of difficulty getting milkweed to grow in GA.
Try purchasing asclepias tuberosa seed... Probably the easiest to grow from seed in our conditions. I have better luck planting it in the veggie garden....it doesn't grow if I treat it like a weed...
Name: Christie
43016 (Zone 6b)
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cwhitt
Aug 1, 2016 11:11 AM CST
Can anyone tell me, which types of milkweed are suited for Ohio? Zone 6b?
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Aug 1, 2016 11:48 AM CST

Plants Admin

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is probably the easiest to grow, and easiest to come by, of all the wetland-adapted milkweed species. My own experience is that monarch cats feed heavily on it.
[Last edited by KentPfeiffer - Aug 1, 2016 11:49 AM (+)]
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Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
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mellielong
Aug 1, 2016 11:49 AM CST

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Try this tool: http://www.xerces.org/milkweed-seed-finder

That applies for everyone, by the way. But when I searched Ohio a source came up that sells the three different milkweeds listed along with a "Milkweed Madness" packet that has even more species and can cover 100 square feet. Just type "milkweed" in the product search box: http://www.ohioprairienursery.com/

I've purchased from Everwilde Farms before and what I like is that each product page has a map where it shows the status of what you're buying: native to state, native to county, introduced, noxious, etc. So you won't waste your time growing things that won't work in your area. It gives pretty good details on the plants themselves. About half of the milkweeds native to Florida grow in swamps or wetlands, so I can't imagine they'd like my yard. http://www.everwilde.com/

And of course, Monarch Watch is a great resource for all things Monarch. And they have a link to ALL the maps for ALL the Milkweed species across the US - study this, there will be a quiz! Rolling on the floor laughing http://www.bonap.net/NAPA/TaxonMaps/Genus/County/Asclepias

Now, Monarch Watch splits the country into ecoregions for the purposes of distributing milkweed seeds and plugs. And for collecting those seeds. Ohio is in two ecoregions (221 and 222). Here's what they say about those regions and what the Monarchs want to eat:

"Midwest and Northeast

The Midwest and Northeast regions extend from the east coast north of the 36th parallel, and westward beyond the 100th meridian. These two regions are combined since they share the same milkweed species although the need for seeds and plugs varies by ecoregion. These regions represent the main summer breeding areas for monarchs in the eastern United States. The main monarch host plant is Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed). Other species used by monarchs, in order of their abundance and preference, are A. incarnata (swamp milkweed), A. tuberosa (butterflyweed), A. verticillata (whorled milkweed), and A. exaltata (poke milkweed).

Midwest Ecoregions include: 212, 222, and 251
Northeast Ecoregions include: 212 (east of Lake Huron), M212, 221 & M221"

And here's a link to the Monarch Watch milkweed market: http://monarchwatch.org/milkweed/market/ I don't know about the rest of the country, but fall sowing is best in Florida! Heck, planting in fall is best in Florida. Otherwise, you just cook your plants. Hilarious!
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Name: Terri Osipov
Rome, Georgia (Zone 7b)
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IJsbrandtGA
Aug 2, 2016 11:27 AM CST
Thanks so much to Mellie, Kent and Stone. I joined a website "monarchbutterflygarden.net" to participate in the Raise the Migration project. I don't remember where I found that referral. Anyway, I have purchased MANY different kinds of milkweed seeds and direct sowed them because I don't have seed heat mats. I am buying some this summer so that I can start seeds indoors for next year's gardening. I just can't understand for the life of me why I can't get a dern seed (weed seed yet!) to grow when I have followed all the instructions. I live in a rural area where most parcels are 5 acres and are either residential/farm or residential/meadow/undeveloped. So, the weeds and wildflowers abound. Oddly, I have never seen the caterpillars that become the Gulf Fritallary, but I did find the adorable Spicevine Swallowtail caterpillars on my sassafras trees. I will follow up on the websites y'all listed above and try again. I am determined to do some good Smiling and turn my brown thumbs to green. Thank You! Crossing Fingers! Thumbs down Thumbs up
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
Southeast Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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KentPfeiffer
Aug 2, 2016 11:57 AM CST

Plants Admin

If you don't mind me asking, where did you get the seed from? Milkweed is I such high demand right now that a few commercial seed sellers are passing off some low quality seeds, either because that's all they have left in supply, or simply because they can. Laws vary from place to place but, assuming it's legal, the best source of milkweed seed is often the local road ditches. For one thing, it helps avoid the problem of contaminating the local milkweed population with genes from distant populations.
Name: Terri Osipov
Rome, Georgia (Zone 7b)
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IJsbrandtGA
Aug 2, 2016 12:10 PM CST
I purchased them off of eBay from a seller who has excellent feedback. But, who knows...I did write to him and he sent me two more packets of seeds that I also had no luck with. I wish I could recognize the milkweed when I see it. I've looked at all the pictures, but honestly I just don't have the ability to walk for long periods in search of seed. If I brushed up against it, I may not even know it! I am hopeful to find someone in Georgia or another Southern neighbor that can school me and sell/trade some seeds with me. Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers! Crossing Fingers!
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Name: Melanie Long
Lutz, Florida (Zone 9b)
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mellielong
Aug 2, 2016 12:13 PM CST

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Terri, it's a Spicebush, not Spicevine. We'll teach you!

Kent, that's a good point. One reason Monarch Watch will only send you plugs from your ecotype region is exactly the reason you said. I've bought seeds from a local native nursery in my area and the lady even writes which county she collected them from on the packet. Now, I just have to get around to sowing them. And clearing space for them. And weeding. And all the other things I have to do. At least with gardening as a hobby, you never run out of things to do!
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Name: Terri Osipov
Rome, Georgia (Zone 7b)
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IJsbrandtGA
Aug 2, 2016 12:30 PM CST
Thank You! I agree
"Speak to the Earth and it shall teach Thee" Job 12:8
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Aug 2, 2016 3:41 PM CST
IJsbrandtGA said:Thanks so much to Mellie, Kent and Stone. I joined a website "monarchbutterflygarden.net" to participate in the Raise the Migration project.

Anyway, I have purchased MANY different kinds of milkweed seeds and direct sowed them because I don't have seed heat mats.

I direct sow ALL my milkweeds.
But... as I said, in the veggie garden.

Please tell us what soil prep you did.
If you prep the soil like you were planting carrots, and sow the seeds in drills like carrots or lettuce, they should grow... the important thing is the soil prep... and planting the seeds the minute that you get them... Perennials always do better if you plant the seed as soon as the plant makes them.

Re finding the seeds wild...
What I suggested was walking around your own property and observing the wildflowers. You are FAR more likely to spot the [milkweed] flowers than the seeds...

After you spot blooms... then you will be able to keep an eye on those plants.
sadly, the milkweeds in GA don't set that many seedpods.
My common milkweeds have never produced seed... I'm not sure if they've even bloomed... They do bloom in town... in the clay.
My asclepias amplexicaulis set seed for the first time this year... and I've been here since '07...

Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
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MariposaMaid
Aug 8, 2016 12:28 PM CST
FYI on Milkweed seed pod formation and (Common) milkweed seed fertility: See bolded material.

Milkweed " flowers produce nectar that is attractive to bees and butterflies. The unusual structure of the flowers, however, allows pollination in two complex ways. In early summer, buds begin to develop. Pollen sacs develop on the stamens. Visiting insects must accidentally slide one of their legs through a slit and into the interior of the flower. These pollen sacs snag on the insect’s leg and get pulled off the stamens. The insect must successfully remove the leg and the attached pollen sac from the slit. If the insect is not successful, the leg may be left behind or the insect may die because of being permanently stuck to the flower. I have found the legs of insects on several flowers. If successful, the insect must reach another flower and have the leg containing the pollen sac slide through the slit of the second flower. The pollen must be inserted into slits behind the crown exactly or the pollen grains germinate the wrong way and are wasted. Once all of these conditions are satisfied, the Milkweed flower has successfully been pollinated. This is one reason why so few pods develop on most plants."
http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/feature-articles/4069...
and.....

"Faunal Associations: The flowers are very popular with many kinds of insects, especially long-tongued bees, wasps, flies, skippers, and butterflies, which seek nectar. Other insect visitors include short-tongued bees, various milkweed plant bugs, and moths, including Sphinx moths. Among these, the larger butterflies, predatory wasps, and long-tongued bees are more likely to remove the pollinia from the flowers. Some of the smaller insects can have their legs entrapped by the flowers and die. Common Milkweed doesn't produce fertile seeds without cross-pollination. "
http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/cm_milkweed...


I'm going to post this and will add more in another post.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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sallyg
Aug 10, 2016 12:01 AM CST
http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/prop.htm

Lots of details, soil temp can be a factor,

Growing Milkweeds from Monarchwatch.org
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Name: Christie
43016 (Zone 6b)
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cwhitt
Aug 10, 2016 8:46 AM CST
I had no idea growing milkweed could so complicated. I have memories of seeing it just growing wild.
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Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
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MariposaMaid
Aug 10, 2016 9:23 AM CST
Thanks Sally. In addition to variable rates of seed germination due to several environmental factors as Monarch Watch article points out, seed production is also limited by tricky to pollinate flowers and the need for cross pollination as most milkweeds are not self fertile.

To this last point of the necessity of cross pollenation, In the case of Common Milkweed (and other milkweeds), most of the plants in any given patch are basically clones of the original mother plant spreading via rhizomes to form a colony . Thus each colony needs cross fertilization from another non genetically identical plant or colony, a distant cousin!

For me this translates into not only planting Milkweed, but planting milkweed from several divergent sources.

Currently I have Common Milkweed from eight different sources within 100 miles of my patch.
(Thankyou Sallyg and Muddy1 and others!) Again, this is Common Milkweed I'm primarily speaking of...

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