Milkweed’s toxins protect butterflies

By Marcia Myers

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Not only does this amazing plant act as a nursery, provide nectar, and serve as an important food source, it provides extra protection from predators. Both monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus) store cardenolides, toxins obtained from their milkweed (Asclepias spp.) diet.

Why aren’t the butterflies poisoned? Monarchs and queen butterflies developed enzymes that are “almost entirely immune to cardenolides’ toxic effects”. An article titled, “Butterflies Weaponize Milkweed Toxins” in The Scientist discusses the findings of recent research from Proceedings of The Royal Society B which indicate that the cardenolides-resistant enzymes arose not to specifically encourage the caterpillar to eat more milkweed but to make themselves poisonous to natural enemies.  The milkweed provides the toxins.

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Pros and cons of raising monarchs

By Marcia Myers

Hundreds of monarchs cover a tree trunk as they overwinter in Mexico

Monarchs meeting in Mexico

Monarch butterflies are in serious decline, so raising and releasing them must be good, right? It would seem so, but some experts have concerns.

On October 8, “a group of 10 monarch researchers and conservationists from across the U.S. issued a statement highlighting concerns with the release of commercially raised and other mass-reared monarch butterflies and recommended against the practice.”

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The buckeye and the slender-leaved false foxglove

By Cori Westcott of Bring Conservation Home

Buckeye caterpillar

Buckeye caterpillar – Photo by Dr. James C. Trager

While enjoying the expansive vista of a prairie, my eye stopped upon a strange looking little creature just beyond the boardwalk. A buckeye (Junonia coenia) caterpillar was dining upon a slender-leaved false foxglove (Agalinus tenuifolia), formerly a Gerardia.

The false foxglove flowers from August to October and was in the middle of its flowering time. Its pink, tubular-shaped bloom has five petals. Like its name, the leaves are indeed very slender.

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Class: Wild Edibles for Fall and Winter at Forest Park – Nov. 10

Forest Park Forever logoLearn to identify some of the common seasonal, wild edibles found in Missouri.  Like spring and summer, fall brings us a bounty of possibilities and even winter offers some nutrients. This class will discuss tips for foraging, plant identification, and some processing techniques. Also, participants will have the opportunity to sample some treats!

What: Wild Edibles for Fall and Winter at Forest Park
Where: Learning Lab Classroom of the Dennis and Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center
When: Tuesday, November 10 from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public. However, registration is required.
RSVP: To register, please email FPF Education Coordinator Jean Turney at jturney@forestparkforever.org. Space is limited.

 

Wild Ones sponsored NPS 10th anniversary

By Marcia Myers

10th Anniversary guests at Wild Ones tent

10th Anniversary guests at Wild Ones tent

The catered food from Local Harvest tantalized taste buds. The booths provided education, games, and even food from native plants. And of course the Whitmire Wildflower Garden‘s natural beauty hosted tours.

Celebrants enjoyed a diversity of activities during the Native Plant School’s 10th anniversary celebration at Shaw Nature Reserve on October 17. Wild Ones sponsored the event, which served as the October monthly gathering with members answering questions and introducing participants to a game. The idea was to match the plant descriptions to the plant photos, and/or identify the plants in the photos. According to Francine Glass, secretary of the chapter Board of Directors, “All who took the challenge enjoyed it.”

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