Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Planting for parrots
March 23, 2005 - I have 2 parrots, a sun conure and a nanday conure, and I would like to find some plants to put in their aviary room that are safe for parrots. Can you help me with this question?
view the full question and answer

Wildlife and bird friendly hedgerow for Chicago suburb
November 30, 2013 - Want to plant a wildlife/bird friendly hedgerow in suburban Chicago. Looking for a recommended mix of understory trees as well a shrubs and grasses. Site is part shade with average to wet soil and tr...
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for bees in Missouri
July 13, 2013 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I just became a beekeeper and would like to plant wildflowers that are best for bees. The area to plant is partially shaded with clay soil. Do you have any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Memorial garden in Georgia
December 08, 2008 - I would like to plant a memorial garden in memory of my mother. She loved butterflies and bulbs blooming. Our backyard is shaded by large oaks and pines. A pool is located to the right, a large fire...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for East Texas school gardens
May 19, 2008 - I am a teacher in San Augustine, Texas (which is in the Eastern Pineywoods region). I have started an outdoor classroom/schoolyard habitat at our school. We are in the process of planning our plant ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.