Showy Milkweed in another flora subject matter that I did not think I’d be photographing. About the same time you see the start of Foxtail Lilies, you see the beginnings of these plants. With their broad green leaves they’re hard to miss. In select areas they appear to be quite prolific. You’d think you’d see Monarch butterflies all over them. But sadly with their populations in decline, it’s rare to see one in this neck of the woods.
The last time I actually saw a Monarch butterfly out in Nature was September 13, 2015. I had just moved to Santa Fe, NM. Not only did I document the encounter, but even wrote about the experience because it was so special.
A Monarch Visited Me Today
A rare and beautiful Monarch butterfly fluttered all about my head today. In my friend’s lovely little front courtyard. It flew all around my head – so close and without fear – its gentle beauty a reminder of freedom.
It landed on the branch right above my head, stopping with wings opening and closing every so slowly so I could take in all of its regality. I was breathless, watching unmoving. What a gift this glorious creature was. It moved me to my very soul – that I could be so blessed with such a sight – how meaningful.
Another reminder of persistence, possibility and transformation…
The irony to this Monarch encounter is the it was literally the day after going to the 2015 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Santa Fe, NM where one of the feature films was “Monarchs & Milkweed”.
FYI – Milkweed for Monarchs
From the National Wildlife Federation website: “Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed, the only host plant for this iconic butterfly species. As such, milkweed is critical for the survival of monarchs. Without it, they cannot complete their life cycle and their populations decline.
Indeed, eradication of milkweed both in agricultural areas as well as in urban and suburban landscapes is one of the primary reasons that monarchs are in trouble today.“
If interested, you can learn more here.
Photographing Showy Milkweed Flowers and Buds
Here we are almost 5 years later. I have not scene another Monarch outside of the the seasonal Butterfly House down at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms. However, I’ve certainly scene my fair share of milkweed growing about. And I must say, the little flowers and buds are quite beautiful! Who knew?
Wandering around the gardens I frequent to photograph the other “regulars”, these little flowers and buds were not to be overlooked. They really provided some nice morning photo ops. The little pink buds and flowers really are pretty.
With camera and Velvet 56 lens in hand, I’m always open to making new flower discoveries. These pretty, little flowers did not disappoint.
On one morning, the gardens had just been watered so these plants were glistening with water droplets. It was a golden opportunity for some photographs and a pleasant surprise!
As these gardens are predominately xeriscaped, photographing flowers on a watering day can be tricky. Not knowing when or where they will turn on next, it can be a duck and dodge to avoid getting my camera wet. I on the other hand welcome the sprinkles on my body on a hot summer morning.
Needless to say I’ve had a few close calls with the sprinklers!
Bees Share the Milkweed Bounty
While the Monarch’’s caterpillars feed exclusively on the board green leaves of the plants, bees enjoy the flowers for pollen gathering. They definitely take advantage of these little flowers as they open an invitation.
If the wind is not too bad in the morning, and the plants are not swaying too much, I’ve been able to snap a photo or two of them doing their thing on the milkweed flowers such as in the photo below. Yay bees!
Milkweeds are considered classic American wildflowers which can make for a lovely addition to your garden and make it more bee AND butterfly friendly too!
Transforming into Seed Pods
Milkweed takes on an interesting transformation. As seen in the photos above, it’s hard to believe the little pink buds go from delicate looking flowers to the all-too-familiar green, spiky seed pods.
Alien-looking in their shapes, the green spiky pods grow upwards as shown in the photo to the left. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, they remind me of the pods from the classic movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers!
These green pods are actually filled with seeds and floss, a silky material attached to the seed that allows it to travel on the wind. It’s similar to the familiar dandelion seeds.
Come fall the pods go from green to brown as they prepare to open with the next generation of Milkweed.
Once the pods dry out they burst open with dozens of seeds attached to silky, white floss. It’s yet another transformation Milkweed undergoes. Shown in the photo to the right
The seeds are preparing to take flight. They will float gently on the wind in search of a place to take hold vs. taking over a human host 🙂