Category Archives: Butterfly Garden

THANKS TO A CANADIAN CHEMICAL ENGINEER, A VERMONT ACADEMIC AGRONOMIST, RISK-TAKING FARMERS, AND VISIONARY CLOTHING COMPANY FOR A FABULOUS NEW USE FOR MILKWEED

What’s old is new again!

Common Milkweed (Ascleipias syriaca) is the essential food plant for populations of the Northeastern and Atlantic coast Monarchs. During Colonial times, the silky floss found in the dried seed heads was used to stuff quilts and pillows. In the 1860s, in Salem Massachusetts, Common Milkweed silk was used as a mattress filling.

During WWII, Common Milkweed became the substitute for kapok, a soft cottony material from the kapok tree that was the preferred filling for life vests. Japan cut off the supply of kapok from Java, the main source of the material, and part of the wartime effort included children sent to fields to gather millions of pounds of Milkweed seed heads for the armed services.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

An innovative Canadian clothing manufacturer, the Quartz Company and Altitude Sports, has created the first modern insulated jacket using milkweed silk. Hundreds of acres of Common Milkweed have been planted in Vermont and Quebec. Particularly noteworthy is that the fields of Milkweed are not harvested until after the Monarchs have left.

READ THE STORY HERE  

Milkweed Silk and Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis

WWII Common Milkweed photos courtesy Google image search.

SAFE TRAVELS MARIPOSA MONARCA! AND MONARCH FILM ONLINE FUNDRAISING UPDATE

The Monarch last to eclose departed on Wednesday, November 15th. Although the air temperature was only in the low 40s when I left for work, the sun was shining. Our front porch faces southwest so it wasn’t long before his wings were warmed by the sun’s rays and away he flew. The forecast for parts further south along the east coast, the next leg of his journey–Westport, Long Island, and the Jersey shore–looked promisingly mild. Thank you to my friend Patti Papows for the gift of this last little trooper.

We in the Northeast aren’t alone; I am reading reports about late comers from all around the United States, and even as far north as Toronto, Canada. So few Atlantic coast Monarchs were seen last year, do the great numbers this year portend of a permanent population increase? Bare in mind that the Monarchs were formerly counted in the billions when first discovered in the late 1970s, and now, forty years later, only millions.

A cold New England spring was offset by an unseasonably warm fall and that certainly helped the Monarchs (and myriad species of Lepidoptera). In response to the vast areas of farm acreage that no longer supports butterflies and bees, due to the use of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically modified seeds of corn, soybean, and sorghum, people all across the U.S. are planting milkweed, creating pollinator habitats, and finding alternatives to pesticides and herbicides.

Monarchs Eastern Point Lighthouse Daybreak

With Thanksgiving only a few days away I am writing with the deepest appreciation and gratitude to my community for your tremendous contributions to Beauty on the Wing. From donations of $5.00 to $10,000.00, from over 70 donors, to date we have raised $24,710.00. We are well on our way to reaching our goal! Your kind words, contributions, and friendships mean the world. We are going to make an outstanding, thoughtful and thought-provoking film about the Monarchs that along the way, through storytelling and cinematography, shines a beautiful light on Cape Ann.

MY DEEPEST THANKS AND APPRECIATION TO LAUREN MERCADANTE (PRODUCER), SUSAN FREY (PRODUCER), NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS FOUNDATION, BOB AND JAN CRANDALL, MARY WEISSBLUM, SHERMAN MORSS, PETE AND BOBBI KOVNER (ANNISQUAM AND LEXINGTON), JAY FEATHERSTONE, MIA NEHME (BEVERLY), CHICKI HOLLET, JUNI VANDYKE, ERIC HUTCHINSE, KAREN MASLOW, MARION F., ELAINE M., KIMBERLY MCGOVERN, MEGAN HOUSER (PRIDES CROSSING), JIM VANBUSKIRK (PITTSBURGH) NANCY MATTERN (ALBUQUERQUE), DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN (NEW YORK), ROBERT REDIS (NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS (CHELMSFORD), LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, JOHN STEIGER, PAT DALPIAZ, AMY KERR, BARBARA T. (JEWETT, NY), ROBERTA C. ((NY), MARIANNE G. (WINDHAM, NY), PAULA RYAN O’BRIEN (WALTON, NY), MARTHA SWANSON, KIM TEIGER, JUDITH FOLEY (WOBURN), PATTI SULLIVAN, RONN FARREN, SUSAN NADWORNY (MELROSE), DIANE LINDQUIST (MANCHESTER), HEIDI SHRIVER (PENNSYLVANIA), JENNIFER CULLEN, TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.

 

WHERE DO ALL THE MONARCHS GO?

Monarch Butterfly and Seaside Goldenrod at Gooseberry Island, Westport

After departing the shores of Cape Ann in autumn, where is the Monarch’s next destination on their several thousand mile journey to Mexico? Our Cape Ann Monarchs join the stream of Monarchs that are migrating southward along the Atlantic Coast. They hug the coastline, crossing bays and ponds, and pausing at beaches to nectar and rest when caught in a headwind or during a storm. When weather and habitat variables combine to create a favorable year for the Monarchs, there may be tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of butterflies traveling along the Atlantic Coast beaches.

The Gooseberry Island old lookout tower is surrounded by a sea of Seaside Goldenrod.

The next major stopover is Westport in Massachusetts, at Gooseberry Island and Allen’s Pond Wildlife Sancturary. Here they find dunes and fields of nectar-rich wildflowers such as Frost Asters, Purple-stemmed Asters, Seaside Goldenrod, Knapweed, Red Clover, and more.

Monarchs drinking nectar from Red Clover at Allen’s Pond Middle Meadow

The sanctuary at Allen’s Pond is host to many species of butterflies during the Monarch’s fall migration, including Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, and Painted Ladies.  They, too, drink nectar from the Knapweed, Red Clover, asters, goldenrod, and Black Mustard in the sanctuary fields.

The Atlantic Monarchs next head to New York, traveling along the coast of Long Island, from the eastern tip of Montauk, southwest to Fire Island, and continuing to Coney Island. On the day of October 9th, because of a storm passing through, a batch of migrating Monarchs was “stuck” on Plumb Island in Brooklyn.  After the storm passed the following morning, tens of thousand of Monarchs were observed flying over the dunes and along the beach, resuming their journey south.

Monarchs in the gardens at Battery Park with ferry to the Statue of Liberty in the background. Liv photo and video (below).

Our daughter Liv reports that over the weekend of October 21-22, New York City was teeming with Monarchs. She observed hundreds at Coney Island on Saturday, and even more at the gardens at Battery Park on Sunday. Liv has even seen them in the NYC underground subway stations!

After departing the shores of Long Island and NYC, the next great stopover and roosting area is Cape May, New Jersey. The Monarchs pause along the way, stopping to drink nectar and rest on the barrier beaches of the Jersey Shore. Latest field reports suggest that the dunes and fields of Cape May are rife with Seaside Goldenrod that is still in bloom. I am on my way there today and will report all that I see.

From Cape May Point the Monarchs travel ten miles across the Delaware Bay, then journey along the eastern shores of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Some years the Monarchs converge by the millions at the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge waiting for the right winds to carry them across the Chesapeake Bay.

Some Monarch Butterflies travel to Florida, but most are funneled in through the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, on into Texas and central Mexico.

If you would like to help towards the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed in the wilds of Cape Ann and Angangueo, Mexico, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim Smith

 

MONARCH MIGRATION UPDATE AND THANK YOU KIND DONORS FOR CONTRIBUTING TO MY DOCUMENTARY “BEAUTY ON THE WING!”

I AM OVERJOYED TO SHARE THAT WE HAVE RAISED OVER $2,500.00 IN THE FIRST WEEK OF “BEAUTY ON THE WING” ONLINE FUNDRAISER!!! MY DEEPEST THANKS AND GRATITUDE  TO NEW ENGLAND BIOLABS, LAUREN M., MARION F., ELAINE M., DONNA STOMAN, PEGGY O’MALLEY, JOEY C., CATHERINE RYAN, JOEANN HART, JANE PAZNIK BONDARIN AND ROBERT REDIS (BOTH FROM NEW YORK), NUBAR ALEXANIAN, PETER VAN DEMARK, PATRICIA VAN DERPOOL, FRED FREDERICKS, LESLIE HEFFRON, JIM MASCIARELLI, DAVE MOORE (KOREA), LILIAN AND CRAIG OLMSTEAD, TOM HAUCK, AND ANONYMOUS PERSONS FOR THEIR GENEROUS HELP.  
If you would like to help towards the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, filmed in the wilds of Cape Ann and Angangueo, Mexico, please consider making a tax deductible donation here:

DONATE HERE

Donors contributing over $5,000. will be listed in the credits as a film producer.

For more information, visit the film’s website here: Monarch Butterfly Film

For an overview of the film’s budget, please go here: Budget

Thank you so very much for your help.

With gratitude,

Kim Smith

Cape Ann Monarch Migration Update October 16, 2017

Monarchs roosting overnight in the old chokecherry tree.

We have had four beautiful waves of Monarchs pouring into Cape Ann. The first arrived on September 23rd and the fourth departed last Wednesday morning, on the eleventh of October. As there are reports of Monarchs still further north, we should be expecting at least one more wave, quite possibly this week. And, too, my friend Patti found several Monarch caterpillars in her garden only several days ago. These caterpillars won’t be ready to fly to Mexico for another week to ten days at least. If this warm weather continues, we may still yet have more batches coming through in the coming weeks.

What can you do to help the Monarchs, Painted Ladies, bees, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and all pollinators at this time of year? Don’t tidy up the garden just yet!  When you cut back remaining flowering stalks and sprigs, you are depriving winged creatures of much needed, and less readily available, nourishment. Bees, and migrating butterflies on the wing, especially Monarchs, need nectar throughout their journey to Mexico. Songbirds eat the seeds of expiring flowering stalks.

I keep my client’s gardens neat and tidy at this time of year by pulling out the occasional dead plant and trimming away dried out foliage. In deference to the pollinators, the very best time of year to plant bulbs and organize the garden for the following year, is after November 1st, at the very earliest. And even then, if for example my Korean Daisies are still blooming, I work around the plant. Usually in November and up until the first frost, it is covered in bees. I’ve had many a Monarch pass through my garden in November and the Korean Daisies were there at the ready to provide nectar for weary travelers.

I keep my client’s gardens neat and tidy at this time of year by pulling out the occasional dead plant and trimming away dried out foliage. In deference to the pollinators, the very best time of year to plant bulbs and organize the garden for the following year, is after November 1st, at the very earliest. And even then, if for example my Korean Daisies are still blooming, I work around the plant. Usually in November and up until the first frost, it is covered in bees. I’ve had many a Monarch pass through my garden in November and the Korean Daisies were there at the ready to provide nectar for weary travelers.

Patti’s Caterpillar, found in her garden on October 14th. He’s now at our home in a terrarium, happily munching away on Common Milkweed leaves. I leave him outdoors in a sunny location during the day but bring him indoors late in the afternoon because the air temperature is dropping considerably at night. Patti Papow Photo

LOOK WHAT PATTI PAPOWS MADE FOR SUNDAY’S MILKWEED SEED DISTRIBUTION EVENT!!

Thank you to Patti Papows for putting together these utterly charming pouches of milkweed seeds for our event tomorrow. We also have loads of milkweed pods and Joe-Pye seeds to distribute so come on down to Captain Joe’s dock Sunday morning from 10:30 to noon. We hope to see you there!

Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, Gloucester.

To donate toward the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly, please visit the film’s website at www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com

WHEN A WEED IS NOT A WEED and Why Joe-Pye is So Darn Lovable!

A bodacious beauty possessing the toughest of traits, Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium) is the stalwart star of the eastern native plants garden. Large, airy dome-shaped flowerheads blooming in a range of shades from pink to lavender to purple provide food, by way of nectar, foliage, and seed heads to myriad species of bees, butterflies, and songbirds. Beginning in mid-July and continuing through mid-October, pollinators on the wing can find sustenance in a garden planted with Little Joes and Big Joes.

Joe Pye, the person, is thought to have been a North Carolina Native American medicine man who used these wildflowers to cure many ailments, including typhoid fever. The plants became know as Joe Pye’s weed.

A name changer from weed to wildflower would be a game changer for numerous species of native plants. Why do so many native wildflowers have the suffix weed? Because when the colonists arrived from Europe, they wanted their crops, as well as European cultivated flowers, to grow in their new gardens. Anything native that interfered with their plans was deemed a “weed.” Examples of beautiful and invaluable North American native pollinator plants with the name given weed are milkweed (Asclepias), sneezeweed (Helenium), ironweed (Veronia), and jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).

Three favorite and fabulous species for the New England landscape are Eutrochium purpureum, E. maculatum, and E. dubium. Joe-pye grows beautifully in average to moist soil, in full sun to light shade. Plant Joe-pye in the back of the border. E.purpurem grows five to seven feet tall, while Little Joe grows three to five feet. With their beautiful blossoms, robust habit, winter hardiness, and disease resistance, these long blooming members of the sunflower family are treasured for their ability to attract an array of butterflies, bees, and songbirds to the garden during the mid- to late-summer season.

Just look at this sampling of the different species of Lepidoptera finding noursihment from the blossoms of Joe-Pye!


Tiger Swallowtail

Painted Lady
Black Swallowtail

 

Monarch

Joe-Pye does especially well in a coastal native plants garden.

If you enjoyed reading this post, I hope you will consider donating to the completion of my documentary film Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of the Monarch Butterfly. Every contribution is tremendously appreciated. For more information on how you can help, please visit the film’s website at http://www.monarchbutterflyfilm.com

COMMUNITY MILKWEED SEED POD PROJECT FOR THE POLLINATORS!

MILKWEED SEED COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION PROJECT SUNDAY OCTOBER 15TH

Collect ripe milkweed seed pods (only Common Milkweed and Marsh Milkweed please). Place in a paper bag, not plastic, as plastic can cause the seed pods to become damp and moldy.

Bring seedpods to Captain Joe and Sons on Sunday morning between 10:30 and noon. Captain Joes is located at 95 East Main Street, East Gloucester.

If you’d like to distribute seeds, meet at the dock between 10:30 and noon and I will show you what to do.

NOTE: It is easy to tell when milkweed seedpods are ripe. The seeds inside turn brown. Do not collect the pods when the seeds are white or green. If you pick them too soon, they will never be viable. You can check the seed pods by slitting the pod a tiny bit and peeking inside.

Any questions, please comment in the comment section or email me at kimsmithdesigns@hotmail.com. Thank you and I hope to see you Sunday morning!

To learn more about how you can help fund the documentary Beauty on the Wing and the Monarch Butterfly Film Online Fundraising event, please visit the film’s website at monarchbutterflyfilm.com.