The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Milkweed Along the Lakeshore

Milkweed budding out

One benefit of hiking over a long period is that I have observed the progression of spring to summer with each step.  

One of the intriguing plants that grows along the edges of our Great Lakes is milkweed.  

It is rather unassuming as it pushes its leaves up and out of the sandy soil, but then buds form and finally burst into a globe of little five-pointed flowers.  

Many insects are drawn to milkweed, and some of them will fall prey to this hungry spider.

When they finally come into full bloom, the flowers give off a sweet and lively scent, drawing all sorts of creatures to the plant for life-giving nectar.  

The life cycle of the monarch butterfly is tied to milkweed.  The eggs they lay there hatch into caterpillars and these caterpillars feed exclusively on the milkweed leaves.  The "milk" of the plant is acidic and toxic to many creatures.  By feasting on the milkweed, the caterpillar and the butterfly it transforms into do not taste very good.  Most predators will avoid eating the monarch because of this.  



  1. Nice milkweed - we've seen a few Monarchs lately and have high hopes for more. Thought of you when the NTSB report on the Kalamazoo River oil spill came out. You did good work on that story, Loreen. Your solid reporting helped to make the spill an event that could not be dismissed.

  2. Thanks, Gerry. Let's hope lessons learned from that oil spill helps to prevent future pipeline ruptures.