Monarchs & Milkweed at an Adirondack Lakefront

Monarch Butterflies at Newcomb’s Goodnow Flow

Most everyone seems to love seeing Monarchs.  2020 was a year with large numbers around, this season, 2021, less so. I took more interest in the Milkweed in 2021. The video was taken on an embankment next to Shadow pond, part of the NY State Essex Chain lands. Monarchs lay eggs on Milkweed and the larval stages pickup the plant toxins that make them unappetizing to predators. I could see some leaf damage (and maybe eggs) but I never saw caterpillars (click each gallery thumbnail to get a full size image).

I was seeing lots of milkweed patches along the road running around the Goodnow flow and at the dams on either end of the private manmade lake.   I think the village of Newcomb is making an effort to not mow these in the roadside ditches and hedgerows.

Planting for Adirondack Pollinators at a Newcomb NY lakefront

My video show adult monarchs feeding on milkweed flowers.  Apparently, these aren’t their sole food source but I think it was the main thing then available.  Earlier in the summer I’d seen them on clover and later Goldenrod is supposed to fuel the end-of-season southwards Monarch migration. I’ve been planting wildflower seed mix in spots around my cabin with limited success so far. I haven’t figured, given the short Adirondack spring and summer, whether its best to plant in in spring or late summer (early fall depending on how you score it).  Some of the seeds were commercial deer resistant mixes, others were free from the Adirondack pollinator project.  There are patches of Goldenrod (often wrongly maligned as ragweed) around that flower later – I think more flowering plants might help the Monarchs.

Milkweed seed heads harvested for planting lakeside at the Goodnow Flow

The Milkweed seems to be flourishing alongside roads at my location but I’ve been trying to grow some in a couple of sunny lakeside locations at my cabin plot at the Goodnow flow (a private lake).  Late this season I harvested some seed heads to plant next spring.

The seed pods develop below the flowers and are supposed to eventually split open dispersing seeds that have parachutes to enable wind dispersal.  I cut a pod open before it was ready and you can see the seeds packed in, that was at the start of September.  I came back and harvested some when the pods and dried and turned black three or so weeks later at the end of September.  There are a lot of seeds that don’t escape on the breeze – they were still visible as woolly masses in early November.  Most of the plants in a patch of milkweed may be ‘clones’ from an expanding root system.  I picked seed heads from a couple of distinct patches a mile or so apart so as to mix the genetic background in a patch that I establish (figuring that cross pollination should result in improved seed viability). They are supposed to need a cold spell before being ready to germinate and are in a paper bag in my ‘fridge for the winter.

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