Despite its name, milkweed is not a weed, but a very important family of flowers, vital to the continuation of the beautiful monarch butterfly population. One type of milkweed, the butterfly weed, will be a part of Met's Pride Garden. It produces brilliant orange flower clusters from July to September. These flowers draw hummingbirds, bees and several other species of butterflies, but it is best known for attracting the monarch butterfly. Without it, the monarch species would disappear! Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves. After they hatch, the larvae feed on the leaves. As they reach their adult stage, the monarch begins to feed on its nectar. The monarch and the milkweed really are “friends for life”. Not only are milkweed and butterflies beautiful to see in a garden, they have such a vital partnership. There are many different types of milkweed, providing a wide choice of colour and size in the garden.
Milkweed can be eaten by humans, but only if carefully prepared, as it is poisonous. Cats can become very sick if they consume it. Birds and butterflies have evolved so that they are able to eat the milkweed with no problem. Interestingly, milkweed also produces a type of silk thread attached to its seeds. When released, the seeds are able to float away, due to the presence of the thread, in order to start a new plant. Even more, this thread is used to insulate manufactured clothing -- and is even used in the building of cars and ambulances in order to diffuse outside noise!