En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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!


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 a mixed hedgerow for privacy and for the birds
May 07, 2010 - What are the best native plants for a mixed hedgerow in a small backyard? I want privacy (heights 5'-10') and bird friendly. Thank you for your information.
view the full question and answer

Plants for no sun in Austin
May 12, 2010 - I need recommendations for shrubs that can withstand no sun, something that possibly blooms but does not attract bees, wasps, or any stinging insects (hummingbirds or butterflies ok).
view the full question and answer

Native plants, wildlife hosts for small yard in New Jeersey
October 12, 2005 - I live in New Jersey & am in the process of changing my yard over to native plants. My yard is very small & I currently have a Kousa dogwood tree that I want to replace with something native. I need...
view the full question and answer

Native annuals for pollinators in King County, Washington
February 06, 2014 - I live in King County, Washington State, and I have a plot in a community garden. Rather than plant food, I'd like to attract pollinators. I need to use native annuals rather than perennials as the c...
view the full question and answer

Hybrid of Campsis radicans to attract hummingbirds
February 06, 2008 - Hello :) I am not new to gardening...just new with new varieties of plants/flowers. I tried to do my "homework" first before contacting you...so I do appreciate your time. Anyhoo, I'm developin...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center