By John Connors and Bryan England
All photos by Bryan England
In the last week I’ve heard reports of Monarch caterpillars feeding on previous milkweed plantings at Horseshoe Farm, Monarchs flying at Anderson Point, and I saw one flying Saturday at Yates Mill Pond. All good news! So the time has come to add to the inventory of milkweed available at public parks around Wake County.
The Common Milkweed seedlings have arrived and we have flagged the planting zones at both Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve and Harris Lake County Park. The sites look good…Wilkerson has a clay loam soil and lots of open meadow which was formerly cow pasture- once established milkweed should thrive here and attract many monarchs; Harris Lake has easy to dig sandy loam in a meadow that was once farmed- it will be a good late summer breeding site for monarchs. The Wilkerson meadow was mowed maybe a month ago, so we’ll be planting in openings among the grasses. Harris Lake had a prescribed burn across their meadow…it will be a little easier working there.
We will clip openings in the grass, dig the planting holes, add a little soil improvement, plant the seedling, add a little mulch and water. It may take 3-5 minutes to plant each seedling. We will work in teams.
I imagine we should finish our work by noon, although Wilkerson may take a little longer as the soils will be more difficult to work.
You are part of a nationwide effort in trying to restore Monarch habitat- thanks for your willingness to help. See you in the meadow.
5/16/2015 from Bryan England, Assistant Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve
I want to thank everyone who came and helped with the planting last Thursday, and especially John for organizing it. I hope I will be able to send you all some pictures of monarchs here visiting “your” milkweeds in the seasons to come. We gave all 96 seedlings a drink of about a quart of water each today. The soil was starting to dry, and soaked the water right up, but all the plants looked healthy, with no post-planting wilting at all (although a couple seemed to have been nibbled by something). The flags and plantings in squares really helped us find them all, and made watering a pretty simple job.
5-23-2015 From Bryan England, Assistant Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Here’s the Milkweeds for Monarchs update from Wilkerson.
Nine days after your planting, we have Monarch eggs!
Several of the new plants had eggs like these when I checked today, so we may have caterpillars by sometime next week.
Overall, of the 96 plants, we’ve only lost 4 to browsers, and they may still re-sprout from the root. Of the 92 visible plants, 16 have had their top leaves browsed but are recovering with side branch growth.
None of the plants appeared diseased or drought-stressed, so the overall cohort appears strong. Thank you all for making these eggs possible!
5-24-2015 John Connors Wake Audubon Society
Well I didn’t see that coming! I did find three medium to full grown Monarch caterpillars at Raleigh’s Anderson Point Park yesterday, on milkweed I had planted several years ago- and that was without looking very hard. So maybe its going to be a good year for Monarchs.
It certainly will be a better future for Monarchs for the work all of you put in to get the milkweed planted at Wilkerson Preserve and Harris Lake…and for the efforts of staff and volunteers to keep the seedlings watered.
Thanks everyone, and thanks Bryan for keeping us informed.
6-2-2015 Bryan England, Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Here’s the Milkweeds for Monarchs update from Wilkerson–
Nineteen days after your planting, we have Monarch caterpillars!
Several of these brightly-striped caterpillars were observed on “your” milkweed plants today, all were about 10mm long (they say the camera always adds 10 lbs…). At one caterpillar per plant, they plants seem to be growing faster than the caterpillars can eat them (for now).
Overall, of the 96 plants, we’ve currently “lost” 5 to browsers. Of the 91 remaining visible plants, 27 have had their upper leaves browsed, but most are recovering well with side branch growth. Some of the browsed stems are obviously deer damage (rough, stringy bites), but the majority are rodent/rabbit damage (clean-cut, angled bites). The “wild” milkweeds at Wilkerson have also been browsed over the last week, mostly by deer, so that’s just a natural part of the food chain, too.
Wake Audubon volunteers supervised the efforts of 20 engineering students from North Carolina State University to remove invasive plants at Anderson Point Park on Saturday, March 27. Raleigh Parks staff followed our groups as we moved through the woods and helped by safely applying herbicide on each of the cut stems.
In total we cut or pulled 3000 individual Privet and/or Eleagnus plants from the park during our 3-hour effort. We also pruned dead stems from the remnant population of Mountain Laurel, and added a mulch and peat moss topdressing for those shrubs and the Galax that carpets the forest floor among them. All in all it was a wonderfully successful partnership.
Special thanks to those Wake Audubon volunteers who helped with these efforts: Erik Thomas, Sue and Dan Harvey, and Valerie Waters. John Connors