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?

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
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

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

Evergreen plant with berries for wildlife
September 16, 2007 - We live in central Texas and I am attempting to plant for wildlife. Could you suggest an evergreen, approximately 3-4 feet tall, that would have berries for the birds in the Fall and winter? The pla...
view the full question and answer

Protecting plants from birds near bird feeder
April 24, 2009 - I am happy to have several cardinal pairs living in my yard, but I need to discourage them from eating & destroying my purple heart planted under the huge cedar that holds my bird feeders. The cardina...
view the full question and answer

Want to create a native wildlife habitat for our home in Wasau, WI.
August 18, 2010 - I am trying to create a native wildlife habitat for our home. We live in Marathon County, Wisconsin (north central Wisconsin). We live near woods, meadow, wetlands. Could you send me a list of nativ...
view the full question and answer

Bird attracting plants in Northeast U.S.
March 22, 2004 - What plants will attract birds in zone 6 (Northeast) in the spring and early summer?
view the full question and answer

Wildlife habitat in Gambia
April 06, 2005 - Thank you for the interesting website. We bought a plot in the Gambia and would like to change it into a habitat for different living species; hence, your kindly advise is welcome as we are definitel...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center