Swan Plants and Monarch Butterflies

Butterflies come in many colors. Not only that they look beautiful when hovering around the garden, they also play an important role for the plants. I think that next to bees, they are
also great pollinators which help plants to bear fruits.

In New Zealand, every spring and summer season, it is common to see children bringing their parents to the garden nurseries to buy Swan Plants (Scientific Name: Gomphocarpus
). It is a perennial herb which produces testicles-like follicles. When friends ask me what that plant is called, I always tell them it is called a scrotum plant, lol.

Jokingly aside, one of its role in the ecosystem is it hosts the development of the Monarch Butterfly (Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus). The Monarch butterflies lay their eggs of the leaves and when they hatch into catterpillars, the caterpillars feed on the leaves until they are ready to become a pupa and undergo metamorphosis to turn into beautiful butterflies.

Last year, I had a blast of planting several Swan plants in our yards so that they will attract Monarchs and hopefully become a habitat for many caterpillars that will eventually turn into butterflies. I did it in response to the news that Monarch sightings were dropping not just in New Zealand but in other parts of the world. In some parts of New Zealand, Swan plants are also considered weeds which really affected the dwindling population of Monarchs.

This spring, I am excited that many of my Swan plants survived the winter and let me show you how they look.

This patch is the one that doesn't look that good after the winter season. Originally, it has 5 plants but as you can see, there are only two (2) surviving plants. I am still thankful that two managed to survice. I hope that they will develop more leaves through the entire spring season so that they can accommodate more caterpillars.

The following plants belong to a single patch, but they did very well in the winter and there's no sign of them wilting. I expect these plants to become bushier in the coming weeks as the weather is getting warmer and warmer.

There are six of them which you may notice have different branching systems and about three of them still got the follicles bursting with a lot of seeds.

This is my oldest plant, and probably the tallest. Unlike the rest of the swan plants, this is on its third year, also making it the oldest among them. It is planted in between my other shrubs and its main trunk grows along the branches of my Tibuchina (Scientific name: Tibouchina aspera) plant. I think this is the sturdiest of them all and I am planning if I can get to grow more Swan plants by rooting cuttings from this particular plant.

Last Sunday, I welcomed the first Monarch to lay eggs into one of my plants. It look that its wings are damaged but then I tried helping her, it flew and hovered around the plant which shows that she's okay.

I checked some of the leaves of the plant beside where she laid her eggs and saw that she already left a couple of eggs there too! I expect to see small caterpillars in the coming days and I can't wait to share it with you. Watch this space and I will post updates how these plants will fare with hosting Monarchs coming their way into my garden.

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