|cluster of milkweed flowers, starting to bloom|
I found an entire stand of Asclepias syriaca, otherwise known as Common Milkweed, in my back yard.
The pollinators were in love.
|I'm just going to lie here and drink some nectar...|
I had never smelled Common Milkweed flowers before. Beautifully fragrant, they smell like lilacs to me.
The nickname of Common Milkweed shows how plentiful it used to be. This plant was considered a terribly fast-growing, hard-to-control weed by farmers (and still is, oftentimes).
One of the few herbicides that works on it is glyphosate (known often under the brand Roundup), which one of the reasons why Roundup-ready crops were so welcome by farmers. Finally this weed and many others could be easily gotten rid of with what (at the time) seemed like minimal impact on the environment...
In 1996, 3% of corn and 7.4% of soybeans grown in the US were herbicide-tolerant. By 2013, 85% of corn and 93% of soybeans were herbicide-tolerant, much of it grown in the Midwest, the corridor of Monarch migration. Of course, the increase in herbicides led to a sharp decline of milkweed...
...which led to a sharp decline in the population of Monarch butterflies. I'm sure other wildlife populations are affected, as well (and we won't even go into the evolution of Roundup-resistant weeds that are now spreading.)
|Skipper butterfly on Milkweed|
It is interesting how many plants we think of as weeds, really turn out to be important in the ecosystem.
A noxious weed to farmers that invades their crops and can affect their livelihood? A necessary plant to survival for a butterfly? It is hard to strike balance when talking about this one small but impactful plant, but it certainly can't be healthy to lose such large numbers of wildlife.
So I will do a little gardener's dance at the fact that I have Common Milkweed weeding it up in the back yard and plant a few more milkweed seedlings in the front. I haven't seen any Monarchs yet..
...but I want to be ready for them and any other native wildlife that might need a helping hand.