Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thursday, June 30th

Temperature: ??
Weather Conditions: Starting out overcast but turning sunny in the afternoon

Last night we had a torrential rain storm, so much so that they issued flood warnings and we had a power-outage. I some respects it was great because it gave the garden beds some much needed water which should now keep them going until Monday afternoon when we get back from our other house. Unfortunately though the rain caused a bit of damage. On my daily walk around my gardens I noticed that a few of the taller plants had been flattened to the ground in the downpour. All my Coreopsis was bent over at a severe angle so that now I have them tied to stakes to keep them upright! All the perennial Baby's Breath look like drowned rats with the flower heads looking all soggy. The rain even water logged one of the hanging baskets I have on my fence out back causing it to drop into my sunny flower bed, flattening a couple of plants in the process! Its my own fault really as I filled the basket with regular (heavy) garden soil as I didn't have potting soil to hand, I knew it was gonna fall eventually - that'll learn me!!!

I have "discovered" Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)!!! At the top of the slope out back, just in the front of the tree line are a stack of wild-growing plants that are really pretty, so I made it my mission to find out what they are. Their scent is HEAVENLY, very similar to Lilac and best of all it is a haven for all those "beneficial insects"

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Common Milkweed Flowers

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Common Milkweed Plant

Common Milkweed is an important plant because so many species of insects depend on it. Monarch Butterflies, Milkweed Bugs, and Milkweed Leaf Beetles only eat milkweed, and could not survive without it. Many other species of insects use milkweed as their primary food source, or as a major food source. Common Milkweed grows up to six feet tall. It has large, broad leaves, usually four to ten inches long. They sometimes have red veins. This plant is found in fields, gardens, and along roads. Common Milkweed flowers are pinkish-purple clusters which often droop. Fruits are green pods which turn brown before bursting open to let out fluffy seeds

Milkweed seeds are spread by the wind, which catches the fluffy part and carries the seed for long distances.....Through rhizome spreading, Common Milkweed forms a colony that quickly crowds out other plants.

Common Milkweed, when broken, lets out a milky sap. This sap has poisons in it, called Cardiac Glycosides. Some animals can eat the glycosides and not be harmed. When the Monarch butterfly's caterpillar munches the leaves of milkweed, the glycosides go into its body, making the caterpillar poisonous to predators. Even after the caterpillar has changed into an adult butterfly, it keeps the glycosides in its body. Milkweed flowers bloom from June to August, and are visited by many species of moths, butterflies, bees, and other insects. The flower nectar and pollen does not have glycosides in it, so these animals do not become poisonous. Milkweed is a shelter and hiding place for other species as well. Yellow Jackets eat bees and flies which get trapped in the flowers, and crab spiders ambush visiting insects.

Common Milkweed is considered by many to be a pesky garden weed. Others, however, value it as a great attractor of wildlife, especially butterflies. It is poisonous to humans, so do not eat it. The fluffy seeds of milkweed are sometimes used as insulation or stuffing for life jackets