309. Common Milkweed

Milkweed gets its name from the milky sap that oozes out when leaves or stems of the plant are damaged. Toxins in the sap make milkweed poisonous to animals. However, some insects, such as monarch caterpillars, are able to eat milkweed leaves, making the caterpillars themselves toxic to birds and other predators. 

In fact, the monarch butterfly’s life cycle centers around the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. Its lifecycle begins when an adult female lays eggs on the leaves of the plant. When the eggs hatch, the emerging caterpillars eat only milkweed until they reach full size.

Then they form a chrysalis and begin their transformation into butterflies. Flitting from flower to flower to drink nectar, the monarchs pollinate the milkweed and then take to the skies on their long migration to Mexico. 

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