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Friday, July 28, 2017





                   MONARCH CATERPILLAR

                                                   MONARCH BUTTERFLY (Google photo)

Friday, 8:00 AM.  66 degrees F at the ferry dock, 62 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  The sky is clear, the humidity 84%.  The barometer is mostly steady, now at 30.15".  The week ahead is forecast to have highs between 70 and 80, with mostly clear skies and a chance of a thunderstorm on next Tuesday.  Nice weather, overall.
   The common milkweed, Asclepias syriacus, in the Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae) is a ubiquitous roadside and field plant in the eastern half of North America and beyond.  It has simple, opposite leaves and milky sap.  It's umbels of sweetly fragrant flowers are old rose to whitish or greenish, and have been blooming in Bayfield for perhaps a week or ten days
   The genus is named after the Greek god of medicine, because of the traditional medicinal uses of plants in the genus (too complicated and somewhat arcane to go into here).  The species name was applied erroneously by Linnaeus when the North American plant was confused with another from the Mideast.
   The most well known property of common milkweed today is that it is the obligate host of the Monarch butterfly caterpillar, and thus an object of great conservation interest.  For that reason alone it is a plant that should be protected and encouraged where possible  Other uses have been as cordage made from the stems, both commercially and by American Indians, and the fluffy seed heads as filling for pillows and in former times, life preservers.  At certain stages and with proper preparation the leaves and stems are edible, but I wouldn't recommend doing so.
   Common milkweed is interesting enough (obligate host, ornamental flower, sweet scent) to  be grown in the garden, but it is very aggressive and is best left where it is found.  Butterfly weed, A. tuberosa, is a beautiful prairie plant and much more amenable to garden cultivation.
     The swamp milkweed, A. incarnata, is common in wet places and is also quite attractive and worthwhile.

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