Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Milkweeds for Monarchs

Dwindling monarch butterfly populations have prompted some gardeners to pepper their landscapes with milkweeds, the various plants in the Asclepiadaceae family on which monarchs lay their eggs. Chubby, zebra-striped monarch caterpillars gorge themselves on the plants' milky alkaloid sap, which makes them poisonous to birds.

The question for many isn't whether to grow milkweed, but how -- and which kind.

In Connie Day's Santa Monica garden, a tiger-colored monarch spars with another butterfly, chasing it from a patch of milkweeds.

"The challenge is keeping the food here," Day says, noting that a few monarchs can defoliate a plant in a couple of weeks.

Read the rest of this story in LA Times Home.