Remember last year when I wrote about my daughter’s newly found passion for monarch butterflies?
Well, I recently received this text from her: “Guess who’s back!’
Emily was thrilled to find two more emerald chrysalises hanging from her front door – a repeat performance of last spring! (can you spot them? It’s the teeny tiny bright green dot at the very top of the door.)
Remembering the Butterflyweed (asclepias tuberosa) that had at one point re-seeded and grew with abandon in her garden (and how it was the main food source of the monarchs), she quickly began hunting for more caterpillars.
Imagine her joy when she found not just one but EIGHT fat and colorful caterpillars happily munching away.
Emily has been under a huge amount of stress this semester, as she’s getting ready to graduate in a few weeks, dealing with the pressure of finding a job, leaving the comfort of college life, etc.
So for a few moments each day, she’d sit down in the sun and watch the caterpillars methodically munch away. Even her roommates would sit down and join her, relishing these brief moments of stress-release, warming themselves in the sun, and watching nature.
Here’s where things take a turn for the worse. A few days later I received a panicked phone call from her.
Barely able to comprehend what just happened, she told me she had just come home from work, and the mow-and-blow gardener had mowed the weedy-looking asclepias down to the ground.
It was total devastation. She was crushed – her babies nowhere to be found.
I told her to run outside and quickly look in the composter to see if any were there, and after digging around she found three who survived!
Now a new problem emerged.
Since the asclepias is the only food the hungry caterpillars eat, how was she going to keep them alive until she could get to a nursery the following afternoon?
It was currently 5:10 pm, and we were pretty sure nothing was open. I called her local Home Depot (since they’re usually open late), but they didn’t have a single plant. I quickly googled local nurseries and found one that was not only open for another 15 minutes, but they had blooming plants for sale!
So I called Marina Garden Center and quickly explained the whole story, letting them know how important these caterpillars were to a bunch of college kids, and would they please, please stay open a few minutes past closing time until she was able to get there? While the woman said she couldn’t keep the store open past 5:30, she would leave a branch of asclepias outside the closed gate for my daughter to pick up to feed the starving caterpillars.
Even if my daughter left that very second, with LA’s rush hour traffic, I figured there wasn’t a prayer she’d get there in time. Which she didn’t. But the monarch Gods were with her, as she pulled into the parking lot to find the nursery still open, thanks to a woman making a giant plant purchase. So she quickly bought a large, flowering plant, took it home, and fed the remaining caterpillars.
One week later she had three more chrysalis, and soon after was rewarded with this:
As I mentioned earlier, my daughter is graduating in a few weeks.
I’ll be staying with her a few days after graduation, and we plant to buy and plant more asclepias in her garden for future monarch generations.
I also found these perfect cards on Etsy, which I’ll laminate and place near the plants, letting the gardener and future renters know about this special plant and the monarchs that will follow.
Fingers crossed the new batch of college kids who come through this garden will continue to be good monarch stewards!
Oh, and for anyone who’d like to learn more about monarchs, my good friend Kylee Baumle has a new book being released next week: The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly.
I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book for both myself and my daughter.