Late last year, we attended a Christmas church service at a sweet local church, which hasn’t been in use for many years. Earlier in the year, a family in our district opened it up for their daughter’s wedding.
As we gathered after the Christmas service for drinks, our kids ran around exploring. Our son, Darcy found an exhausted monarch butterfly, sadly at the end of its life, but he gladly held it. The Monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly, also commonly known as a Wanderer, native of North America, in the family Nymphalidae.
Did you know that monarch butterflies can fly up to 3,000 miles (4,828kms) to migrate? For more about the fascinating migration patterns of Monarch butterflies in North America, read this National Geographic article.
If you see a Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) and consider spraying or chipping it, spare a thought for the Monarch caterpillars as this is the only place the Monarchs lay their eggs. We’ve been lucky enough to spot eggs, cocoons and caterpillars, as the kids (and adults!) observe their life cycle.
Once it goes to seed, the seeds have a wispy tail to them, which looks a little like cotton, hence they’re also known as cotton weeds. Milkweed is also native to North America. The cotton like fibre from the seed pods were used by people as fillings for their pillows.
It is believed that during the Australian gold rush in the 1850’s, American miners brought them with their pillows. When these pillows were eventually discarded, the seeds germinated and so became the milk weed plant in Australia and the Monarch butterfly down under.