I love this tidy little plant, which is sending its silvery seed parachuting across our meadows this week. The Monarch butterfly larvae love it too, and feed on exclusively on it. Like other milkweeds, this one (Asclepius asperula) contains toxic cardiac glycosides that make the adult Monarch distasteful (phew!) to potential predators–an effective way to stay alive in a dangerous world. We have plenty of this lovely little plant in our pastures: cows won’t eat it, for the same reason that birds won’t eat Monarchs. It’s toxic. And it tastes bad.
This plant has healing properties, too: it’s been used to treat various lung ailments and as a tonic to strengthen the heart. I think about this when I see it sending its seed sailing into the sky. These days, we all need strong hearts–and just the sight of this little perennial gladdens mine. It’s a native inhabitant of the Texas Hill Country, truly at home in its small and very ordinary corner of the earth, as I aspire to be. And that, all by itself, is a healing thought, and I’m grateful.
You probably know that Monarchs are in serious trouble, and that the situation is likely to worsen. As a Monarch food, milkweed is indispensable, but as our wildlands are disappearing, so is this wild plant. For more information and seeds, check out this site.And here is information on planting and harvesting native milkweeds.
If you haven’t visited LifeScapes in the past couple of weeks, you may not know that I’m in the process of moving this blog to my new website. Please click on over and take a look. I’ll be double posting here and there for a while.
Reading note. Metamorphosis has always been the greatest symbol of change for poets and artists. Imagine that you could be a caterpillar one moment and a butterfly the next.–Louie Schwartzberg [Or a milkweed and then a caterpillar and then a butterfly!]