They’ve arrived!


Male Monarch nectaring on a Frostweed (Verbesina virginica), with fellow pollinator on the next bloom cluster below

They’re bulking up on autumn-blooming rich nectar sources for the remainder of their migration and the long winter ahead!


Sometimes, they rest.


Resting on a Drummond’s ruellia (Ruellia drummondiana) leaf

Always, they’re beautiful!


Nectaring on Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

Monarch butterfliesDanaus plexippus  are in the process of one of the longest insect migrations in the world.  Click on this link for information about the Monarch and a “Journey North” map which shows the spring migration northward from Mexico. Currently, the southbound migration from Canada to Mexico is underway.  The major routes of the Monarch converge in Texas and it’s imperative that they have plenty of nectar sources to feed on for migration and preparation for overwintering in Mexico.   Much has been made of the importance of milkweed for Monarch survival because it’s the host plant for this insect. Monarchs having adequate milkweed to lay their eggs on and to nourish the larvae in spring and summer is vital for their survival, but for the fall migration back to Mexico, nectar plants (of all kinds, but native flowers are the best) are required  to sustain the health of the adults who will over-winter in Mexico.


Monarchs are in my back garden,


Nectaring on Ruby red runner, a pond plant

…and front garden too!


Resting on a Martha Gonzales Rose

Travel well, remarkable ones, and have a safe winter in Mexico.  Come back soon–maybe next March??


Monarchs On The March!

It’s more like they’re on the wing–winging their way north, that is.  A quick bit of news about the North American Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, from Texas Butterfly Ranch:

Scientists and citizen scientists report that the Monarchs left their wintering roosts in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico on March 24th.   Whoop!!   My garden is  ready for the incredible migratory insects with Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica that overwintered in my gardens and is sprouting new growth,

…and a couple of new, one-gallon plants of the same, with more foliage, ready for eggs and

Additionally, Austin’s fabulous local nursery, Barton Springs Nursery, now has a regular supplier of native milkweed and my gardening/blogging buddy, TexasDeb at austin agrodolce, kindly picked up a couple of A. tuberosa for me recently, which I popped into the ground this past weekend.

The Asclepias species of plants are the host plant for the Monarch, which cannot survive without it.  I’ve ordered a flat of native milkweed to plant in my spot of the world and to share, from, but I don’t know when it will arrive.  That organization is now selling four-inch pots of native milkweed throughout North America, with delivery dates in spring.  I hope I receive the milkweed soon, preferably before the Monarchs arrive in Central Texas, but if not, the plants will be here in  fall and hopefully, beyond.

The Monarchs headed to Central Texas are those who left Canada in September, migrated southward across North America and into Mexico for winter. They are the longest surviving Monarch generation, living 7 to 9 months. That generation will migrate to and mate in Texas, lay eggs and die. Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plants, the larvae eat, grow,  morph to adulthood and the adults of the next generation move northward, ending in the last Monarch generation of the year hatching in late summer.  That generation  leaves Canada in August/September and migrates several thousand miles south  to Mexico for winter.

It’s a cool and wet spring in Texas this year with lots of blooms, native and otherwise, which is good for the “first” generation that will hatch in the coming 6-8 weeks. Whether there is enough milkweed for the parents to lay eggs is the question and only time and population increase, will tell.  I wrote about the precarious situation of this remarkable insect here, if you’d like to know more about their plight.

You can follow the northward migration by reading Monarch Butterfly Journey North.

Here they come!

Trav’lin Monarchs

As of this past weekend, migrating Monarchs are gone from my gardens.  We received our strongest cold front of the season and like other winged migrators, Monarchs hitch a ride on those strong winds heading southward. I did visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center over the weekend and saw busily nectaring Monarchs there–maybe those were some that left my garden a day or two before.  While the Monarchs’ migratory patterns and their winter habitat are seriously threatened, causing concern for the future of this North American species, I was gratified to host Monarchs in my gardens over the past few weeks. Every afternoon, there were several, …sipping and sharing with other pollinators.

The perennials in my gardens cooperated, supplying blooms galore for the Monarchs’ winter needs.  They especially enjoyed the blooms of the Frostweed, Verbesina virginica.

Any migration worth its mileage will have both males and females along for the adventure. How do you know whether it’s a boy Monarch or a girl Monarch?  The male Monarchs tend to have thinner wing veins than females, therefore are lighter in color. More easily observed though are the black spots on the hind wings which have pheromones which attract the ladies.  Can you see the black spot in this photo?

It’s located on  the underside of the hind wing, just above where the “B” for the label is.


In this photo with wings spread, the gentleman’s black spots are to the left of the label.

This Monarch, dining on nectar of the Gregg’s MistflowerConoclinium greggii, …is female.  As is the one below, sipping on a  Blue MistflowerConoclinium coelestinum.

There are no discernible spots on either, so they are female.  Read here and here for a couple of excellent tutorials on sexing Monarchs.

I wish good travels to the Monarchs out there and safe harbor in the mountains of Mexico. I’ll await your return in the spring, with blooms ready to help continue your remarkable life cycle.