Sunday, May 15, 2016
Milkweed, For The Monarchs (AND Life Vests in World War II)
Recently, I was with a group of people who planted over 500 milkweed plants at Panola Mountain State Park. It was a magnificently beautiful day and after I had spent a great part of the day digging in rock hard dirt, I was able (only barely!) to climb Panola Mountain. Milkweed, as I am sure you must know, is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly which has rapidly diminished in numbers over the past few years. Perhaps our milkweed plants will take firm hold and flourish where we have planted them, I hope so!
On the day of the planting, we had a wonderful naturalist, Elaine Nash, to help us and to show us the best place to plant the different milkweed plants that we were given. (Grown by the Atlanta Botanical Society, they were all beautiful, healthy specimens!) Some were planted in partial shade, some in full sun, and some in a wetlands area. (Remember my post about the buttercups? The buttercups were growing just beside the wetlands area.) Here's the thing...speaking with Elaine Nash later in the week, she told me that they had found some milkweed that she believes might have been planted in World War II by Mr. Alexander. (He owned the property then, you remember my mournfulness over the lake at Panola Mountain being drained? Alexander Lake, it is called, named after him.)
During World War II, the life vests for the military were made from the kapok tree from what was then the Dutch West Indies, and is now Indonesia. Once Japan took over that country, there were no more fibers from the kapok tree for the USA so....the milkweed came to the rescue! It is an extraordinary story.
After the milkweed blooms, the seeds are encased in a cottony like, feathery fiber which, combined with other fibers have a perfect buoyancy for life vests. When the US government asked for the milkweed during World War II, it fell to the SCHOOLCHILDREN to walk along the sides of the roads, along fence rows and into the woods to collect it. (Of course, people also planted it, but the fiber from the pods were needed immediately!) Look, I have found a story about it MILKWEED FLOSS. There, click on that and you will be amazed by this story! Honestly, I can't believe in all my reading about nature AND about World War II, I have only just learned of it, after Elaine Nash told me about it! (Thanks Elaine!)
To see more photos of milkweed and another great article about it, please read this.
Yes, I do adore my nature walks but I am fascinated by history also.
(That is a photo of milkweed (also called butterfly weed) in the photo above. If you want to see an amazing photo of a kapok tree, my friend Kay from her blog "Musings" from Hawaii had a photo of one on her post from Mother's Day. She has very kindly given me permission to use her photo here and just look at the size of the kapok tree! Can you see Kay and her sweet Mom at the base of the tree? Thank you, Kay! (I love her, by the way, you should check out her blog...you may find her just here.) Aloha!