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!
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I am always learning new things from your blog, Kay! I have always grown milkweek for the monarchs (both the common variety and the tuberosa with its wonderful orange flowers, and knew of the connection between them and life jacket filling, but never knew this was done on any grand scale and certainly had never heard of the WWII Milkweed Floss story you link to. I have memories of picking the pods in the fall with my grandmother who made winter bouquets with them among other dried plants.....I was very very blessed with my grandparents!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Kristi! I love the thought of the pods in an Autumnal arrangement. Your grandparents sound lovely, you must have inherited the lovely gene! xxDelete
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. That tree is just WOW! How exciting to stand at the base and see in person.ReplyDelete
Have a wonderful evening!
Kay and her mother at the base of the tree makes you see how very tall the tree truly is. Compare that tree to the tiny milkweed plant.Delete
Thanks for visiting me, please do so again! :-)
I had no idea about it replacing the map on. I do know that monarch butterflies love it. What a great way to spend a day.ReplyDelete
I didn't say but all butterflies will appreciate the milkweed and we got rain this week, so hopefully the milkweed plants will take hold and thrive! It was a great day!Delete
I always learn something new when I visit you! I love that you helped plant milkweed for the Monarch butterfly. The life vest story is so interesting! Thanks for sharing that. When I say the Kapok tree it reminded me of going to the a place in Florida years ago called the Kapok tree Inn. It was a lovely restaurant and I've never forgotten it. Have a great week!ReplyDelete
I just looked it up! The Kapok Tree Inn is closed now but the gardens are still there! It is in Clearwater, Florida and is one of my favorite spots in Florida. If I ever see it, I will think of you!Delete
I think so too!Delete
A perfect combination of learning something about nature AND something historical - so typical for your blog, Kay! I am still so very glad that I persuaded you to start this.ReplyDelete
Yes, dear Meike, you know how perfect this was for me!Delete
And BLESS you forever to MAKING me blog! HA!
Hope all is OK with you! wink wink!
I don't think we have milkweed here in Australia - or maybe it has another name. So much interesting information here. Well done on all the planting, so important for the environment to keep the butterflies.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Patricia! You have so much in the LAND DOWN UNDER! Wish I could see it one day!Delete
So glad they are planting milkweed for the butterflies, and thank you for the history lesson!ReplyDelete
You might see how I drove my teachers crazy! We would be on a lesson and I would want to tell my classmates something connected to the main lesson! (Some of them would groan, "Will THIS be on the test?").Delete
i wuv flutterbysReplyDelete
Oh man, me too!Delete
Hi from Hove, England, Kay! I've been thinking of you as we've been out exploring today. Your post on milkweed is fascinating! We had milkweed growing near our school, and I used to collect some for science lessons. I would have loved to share this story with them. Sending you hugs.ReplyDelete
Lucky you! Make sure you eat some CHEESE SCONES while you are there, not to mention the fish and chips!!Delete
Thanks for your comment while you are in England, I know you are busy! xx
Interesting post Kay, thanks for stopping by today. I love Kay too!ReplyDelete
We should have a fan club for her!Delete
Thank YOU for stopping by! :-)
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
My mother used to tell about school children picking the milkweed to be used in making the life vests. I guess I thought everyone knew. The plants are pretty aren't they?ReplyDelete
From my reading, it looks as if there were a lot more milkweed in the Midwest. Also, the US government had ASKED the US citizens to destroy the weed around 1915!Delete
Good thing, it wasn't all gone!
What a great story about the milkweed and the life vests!ReplyDelete
I love this story and glad to learn of it!Delete
Absolutely fascinating! I had no idea about the war work of the milkweed! So interesting to find this out.ReplyDelete
What an interesting story and a lovely way to spend a day. I hope the monarch population flourishes after all the care and attention you've all given. Thanks for the lovely comment about my photo of tulips and, yes, I think they were forget-me-nots - a beautiful combination of colours. XReplyDelete
Ah, your tulips and forget me nots...I could float on that beauty all day!Delete
It was a special day planting the milkweed and THEN climbing the mountain!
All new information to me and interesting stuff. I just assumed life vests had man made materials inside, similar to polystyrene, and that natural fibers would eventually turn soggy left in water too long.ReplyDelete
Nature has so many answers for us if we only know where to look!Delete
An interesting post, Kay, and one that brought back a buried memory. when I was a little kid, kapok mattresses were popular. I've not thought about them in many a good year!ReplyDelete
Well, that makes perfect sense really. Thanks for telling me!Delete
One lives and one learns.ReplyDelete
Yes, but you have to pay attention and don't be afraid of saying "I didn't know that". Many adults don't like to use those words! HA! Stay young and keep learning, I say.Delete
Ciao Kay, what a big surprise find a comment from a Georgia girl in my blog. Thank you. I'm very happy that you have found me and my calla lilies! But there are wonderful flowers on your bloig too. Write you soon, ValentinaReplyDelete
Oh, those calla lilies, SO lovely!!Delete
I love flowers so much!
OH! I see you have signed up to follow me, thank you and bless you!!
I did not know all this good info on the milkweed plant. I find that reading blogs makes one more knowledgeable; you added to my knowledge today. A very enjoyable post.ReplyDelete
Oh hello there! Thank you for your comment! If you ever get the chance, I hope you will visit Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain, both are worthy of a visit. (I know you have been to Stone Mountain!) :-)Delete
Thanks very much for your comment, your blog is FILLED with great info about Georgia! :-)