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  • Marilyn Cavicchia

Here comes the milkweed

Great news for the Monarch Waystation at HPNC! We now have milkweed coming up from last year, both in the main pollinator garden adjacent to the playground and in the area outside the gate, under the HPNC and Little Inspirations signs. This is good because while we love to have the new seedlings that are in the milk jugs (more on that in a bit), it's the returning plants from previous years that will be big enough to support this year's caterpillars. Here are examples of two different species, both under the HPNC sign:

Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Asclepias incarnata (rose, swamp, or red milkweed)

According to the latest reports from Journey North, some monarchs crossed over into southern Illinois in late April. More milkweed shoots keep popping up daily and the ones in these photos are growing quickly, so by the time monarchs arrive here in Hyde Park and need places to lay eggs, our milkweed will be off to a good start.

Regarding the milkweed jugs, you may have noticed that they now have a different look:

Last year, I realized why I would see very few milkweed seedlings establish themselves and grow, even though they start off so well -- it's because rabbits eat them while they're still young and tender. So, this year, I'm trying to protect the new seedlings until they're a bit larger and not quite as tempting.

Here's a close up so you can see the new sprouts, now that they're big enough to have the top half of the jug removed:

They will stay like this until the end of this month. At that point, many of them will be planted in the main pollinator garden (also with chicken wire around them for a while, because that's when they're really vulnerable -- once they're in the ground). It's likely that we'll have some left over, to share with others who would like to plant milkweed. The pollinator garden is starting to look different, too, because I started the work of clearing it over the weekend. Because different perennials come up at different times, it's a slow job over multiple weekends. For now, my main focus is to remove things that are known invasive species or that are just taking up too much space. In that latter category (too much space) is garlic. I think it's actual cultivated garlic, left over from a previous gardener, as opposed to a wild species. In the last three years or so, conditions have apparently been perfect for it -- I pull it up by the hundreds or thousands. Nonetheless, some are still left to make scapes and then to flower, which is fine -- a few of them look really cool in the garden. Just not thousands of them. The bulbs are tiny at this time of year. If you want some to plant in your own garden or would like to use the greens as you would use chives, let me know and we can work something out. We have plenty! That's all for now. We've entered the time of year when there's a lot going on, so expect another post soon!

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