En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - June 23, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Something eating milkweed leaves in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have some milk weed plants, and have noticed in the last few weeks that something is eating the leaves on them. The flowers are fine and no other plant appears to be bothered. I thought perhaps it was the monarch butterfly(which is the sole reason that I planted them!) eating them, but do not know if its even time for them. anxious to hear from you!

ANSWER:

If you planted the milkweed to attract butterflies, examine it closely for some very small but very colorful caterpillars. We will use Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed) as an example. It is a larval host for Monarch and Queen butterflies, which means the leaves are there to be eaten by the larvae of those butterflies. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, but they don't eat leaves. We found this paragraph on our webpage on this plant that we think is illuminating:

"Inevitably butterfly weed will get aphids; you can leave them for ladybugs to eat or spray the insects and foliage with soapy water. Aphids can also be removed by blasting the plant with a high pressure stream of water."

Because we know you are hoping to attract the Monarch, please use no poisons on it. See this article from the University of California Integrated Pest Management on Aphids to help you identify the problem and deal with it. Look on the underside of the leaves, and you will probably see both the tiny aphids, tinier eggs and the honeydew they exude, which is farmed by ants, who may also be present. Remember - NO POISONS! - butterflies die from those, too. If you have found any caterpillars, better just leave the plant alone, the water stream could wash the larvae away, too.

 

More Wildlife Gardens Questions

Plants for pollinators in Brown County, Texas
July 23, 2013 - I am attempting to plant on our family property a wide range of native plants for the central Texas area (May, TX). The flowers, bushes and trees that rely on pollinators, in particular bees, in order...
view the full question and answer

Larval host plants for Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies
October 31, 2009 - I am looking for a list of larval host plants for Painted Lady butterflies. Could you provide such a list?
view the full question and answer

wildflowers for bees and hummers in central Texas
June 16, 2011 - I'm building a native habitat for different hummingbirds and bees at the Inks Lake Fish Hatchery, and I was wondering what kind of native plants in Texas attract these creatures but are also low main...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping from Wilmington NC
December 22, 2012 - I plan on moving to Belmont NC in the next couple of years and settling down with my future wife in her home town. I am a huge do it yourself person. I love to make things from scratch, including buil...
view the full question and answer

Dutchman's pipe vine dying in Fitchburg ME
August 15, 2012 - I have 2 dutchmans pipe vines they have been growing for over 20 years. Now all of a sudden the foliage is wilting and dying. The other one is completely fine. What would cause this?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center