Milkweed Fluff

2021 February 28

For some years now, Sandy has been planting milkweed around the house for the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. This has been very successful, we generally have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of caterpillars taking advantage of them. However, it is good to remember that the name is milkWEED, which means that you had better want them where you planted them, because they are very persistent plants. They also make a lot of seeds. These pictures were taken on November 4, 2020, which was the day the milkweed pods had finally dried enough to pop open and start spreading their seeds around.


The seed pods basically explode into big balls of fluff with seeds embedded in it.


Each seed has a crown of white cellulose fibers, and can be carried around on the slightest breeze on their parachutes.


A lot of them were getting caught on other nearby plants, almost making it look like they were the seeds of those plants.


These parachutes are one of the reasons why you find milkweeds all over the place. They can travel for miles. They are particularly effective at finding areas of disturbed soil that has no vegetation, and colonizing it before other plants can get their seeds in there. And once established, the plants have a bitter milky latex that makes them toxic to most herbivores, and so they are unlikely to get eaten by much. Except for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, a particular species of aphid, milkweed bugs, and a specific type of orange beetle.

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