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Mr. Smarty Plants - Locating milkweed to feed larvae of Monarch butterfly

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Thursday - November 17, 2005

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Locating milkweed to feed larvae of Monarch butterfly
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Samantha Elkinton

QUESTION:

A monarch butterfly on her way south, stopped and laid her eggs on a tropical milkweed. The larvae have hatched and now I want to insure their survival, but I only had 1 plant which they have stripped. Do you know where I might find milkweed (any variety) either in the wild or for purchase in the Austin area?

ANSWER:

Our butterfly gardener says that there are two types of Monarchs in Texas. One is the well-known migrating butterfly, which lays eggs along the migration path south in the fall and usually does not survive the entire trip. The offspring, however, will continue to move south once they have reached the butterfly stage. Texas also has a nonmigratory population of Monarchs that can breed year-round.

You might be able to find some members of the Family Asclepidaceae (Milkweed family) with foliage still present. You probably can still find Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) along stream banks or other wet areas. Also, one of the Matelea spp. should still be around. I saw Pearl Milkweed Vine (Matelea reticulata) growing in my neighbor's yard today. The Scarlet, or Tropical Milkweed ) Asclepias curassavica, native to South America, is a popular nursery plant and is evergreen. It is likely that you could find it or some other milkweed plant for sale at an Austin nursery. You can visit the National Suppliers Directory on our web page to find nurseries in Austin that specialize in native plants.

If you can get your larvae fed and into the pupal stage (which lasts only about one week), the adults that emerge should survive to produce more monarchs.
 

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