Fountain Creek Nature Center Audio Tour – Stop 4 – The Milkweed Meadow
Meadows filled with native grasses and flowers are havens for pollinators and herbivores.
Listen to learn about the monarch butterfly and plant drama that goes on!
Examine the plants growing here in the meadow, what do you notice? If you are visiting in summer, stop and sniff the pink milkweed blossoms beside the side of the trail and watch butterflies land on the blooms to sip nectar. In late summer keep and eye out for the bright orange Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly depends on the milkweed plant to complete its lifecycle. Milkweed is the only plant a Monarch Butterfly will lay her eggs on. In late summer carefully turn over the leaves of milkweed growing by the trail you might discover the black and yellow striped Monarch Caterpillar. Monarch Caterpillars are not venomous to touch but they are poisonous. So don’t eat them. The white sap flowing through milkweed plants contains a toxin. As the Monarch Caterpillar ingest the milkweed it also ingests the toxin which makes the monarch taste bad to predators. Here in the meadow, you might see the pointy heads of the invasive teasel plant brought over from Europe. How do you think teasel got its name? In Europe, the pointy heads were used to tease apart wool for spinning fiber. When European families moved to the new world, they wanted to bring this useful plant with them, but teasel didn’t evolve with other plants and animals here. When those families from Europe planted teasel in their new world gardens it quickly spread over the landscape and outcompeted our native plants like milkweed. Teasel competes with milkweed for sunlight water and space here in the meadow. Many volunteer hours are spent tackling the teasel in the park by digging up roots and clipping the spikey seed heads.