The monarch’s life cycle is solely dependent upon MILKWEED ~ the monarch’s HOST PLANT! Scientifically known as asclepias, there are over 100 varieties of milkweed across the USA. Milkweed is NOT just another weed. It is a natural wonder – with a unique life cycle of its own! Without milkweed, the monarch cannot exist, yet across the USA, milkweed is being cut down! Parking lots, condominiums, and shopping malls are replacing the fields.
Milkweed is from the plant family Asclepiadaceae – the genus of herbaceous, non-woody plants. Asclepias can be compared with the orchid family and produce very complex flowers in the plant kingdom. Its name is derived from the milky, latex type sap that is secreted when stems are broken – the sap contains cardenolides which can be toxic and useful for protecting against dangers.
A predator will experience a bitter taste and learns to stay away from the bright orange and yellow patterned colors. The adult butterfly stores the cardenolides in their systems for protection.