August 13, 2009

Monarch Butterflies Arrive in Chapel Hill

Two Monarch Butterflies arrived in my Chapel Hill, North Carolina garden today. If you are tracking the Monarchs, Chapel Hill is at latitude 35°55'N and longitude 079°06'W.

The Monarchs found all of the asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) as well as the asclepias tuberosa. The milkweed doesn't have to be in bloom when the Monarchs arrive as it is the leaves that will host the Monarch caterpillars. The female Monarch will lay eggs on the leaves and it will take a month for the eggs to become adult butterflies.

Today's favorite nectar food appeared to be verbena bonariensis, orange cosmos and marigolds grown from seeds that I randomly sowed throughout the butterfly garden this spring. The Monarchs also visited the coreopsis, buddleia, and agastache.

The plants shown in the photos are, from top to bottom, cosmos, marigolds and milkweed. The cosmos and marigold seeds are readily available from many local and online sources.

Milkweed is more difficult to find unless you have a local retail nursery that supplies butterfly garden plants. However, milkweed is often available from online plant nurseries. For moist soil areas in bright sun, asclepias incarnata, is a tall, beautiful plant. All milkweed is slow to emerge in the spring, so mark the location so that you don't lose track of the plants. Milkweed returns in early June here in my zone 7b garden.

For more information on Monarchs and the fascinating migration, please look at the Monarch Watch website.

Another wonderful resource, especially for children's classroom participation is the Journey North:Monarch Butterfly Migration website.

Photos and words by Freda Cameron; Location: home garden, Chapel Hill, NC; August 13, 2009
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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