Friday, August 6, 2010

Have you seen...

Garden Sunrise

A vine has covered my garden in the way that daylight creeps across the yard—
from the first tender rays in one corner, stretching and fanning out until only a few spots remain untouched, those safely hidden behind another.
If it were any other, I would pull it—yank its long reaching arms and winding fingers from my vegetable patch, where a few withering pumpkin plants struggle beneath the heat of an early August afternoon.
But it is milkweed.
Sand Vine.

Sand Vine, Cynanchum laeve
the other milkweed

This climbing milkweed, Cynanchum laeve, with its heart-shaped leaves trimmed pink at the stem and clusters of delicate white flowers spaced along its length feeds more Monarchs than the tough and leathery common milkweed standing just feet away in my field.

Sand Vine blossom

Sand Vine seed pods

In the first light of day, striped caterpillars cover it, coursing its twisted stems, cruising the pathway from one tender leaf to the next. Until, sated, they hang as chrysalides—luminous green charms across this heavy milkweed blanket.

Monarch caterpillar feeding on Sand Vine

Their appreciation is boldy stated—
orange wings cover my field.

Monarch nectaring on ironweed

"Have you seen...." is an effort to discover the unusual beauty in things not usually appreciated for their beauty.

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Tom Arbour said...

Hi Nina- It's been a while- so long, that I really had forgot about Sand Vine.



sciencedude288 said...

Oh, how I wish you could see the blue morphos. Their plate-sized blue iridescent wings fluttering in the slanting sunlight. You would be able to put that moment into words.

Adrienne Zwart said...

This is beautiful, Nina. I had no idea there was a vine in the milkweed family. Those caterpillars are so striking with their striped coloration. I have tropical milkweed or butterfly weed as its sometimes called, but no monarchs this year. (Well, at least not eating the plant, we have had a few nectar on the coneflowers.) I was so hoping to observe the different stages. I'm glad to come here and be able to see. :)

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful post and photo! I would love to have some milkweed in my yard. The Monarch butterflies and caterpillars are pretty.

KaHolly said...

Oh, Nina, so very nice. I have never seen the 'other' milkweed, the Sand Vine. It is quite lovely in it's simplicity, and oh, my, the caterpillars!! I've had a few Monarchs up here in Cape Breton - they seem to favor the Red Clover. Such a beautiful butterfly, and always a welcomed visitor. Thank you for the lovely verse today! ~karen

Blu-I'd-Blonde said...

The vine looks like what we call Kudzu in Kansas, a Japanese import. Apparently some farmers have found uses for it. Very prolific and can invade other plants, like our Trumpet Vine.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have this weed, I mean vine, in my garden. I pull it out by the hands full. There are always many that survive. I noticed that it's seed pods looked like milkweed pods. I have never noticed any monarchs on it in any form or fashion. I will look it over better before pulling next time. I must say it can take over and kill a shrub in the garden if you let it go. It is very aggressive. If I would ever find a monarch caterpillar on it I would give it a reprieve.

Randy Emmitt said...


I used to have a favorite Monarch shot on ironweed, mine. But you just blew mine away. KUDOs a a fabulous photo!

Randy Emmitt said...

One question is Sand Vine a coastal plant? We have a vining milkweed sort of like that at Fort Fisher, Queens have been found on it.

MojoMan said...

Lovely, Nina. Reminds me of a huge clump of forsythia sprawling across my backyard. Except for a few days of golden flowers in May, they are ugly plants that hog more space every year. I'd love to cut them down, but then, I wonder, where would the catbirds and cardinals that nest in there every year go?

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Lisa & Adrienne--Your reaction is exactly mine a couple years ago--keep looking,I bet they've found it!
Randy--I don't know the exact distribution, but my feeling is that if Queens are on it, it's milkweed. Who knew milkweeds sometimes were viney!?
Blue-eyed Blonde--We have Kudzu, too! And although there are many other non-native invasives, Sand Vine (or honey vine, as it is sometimes called) IS native. (So, it may seem a little big for its britches, but it's entitled to be here!)
Mojo--I struggle with honeysuckle in that way, maybe even more so. It's a bush I know I should remove, but the void seems almost as bad as the plant.
I'm planning to replace them with spicebush, the native understory plant.
But, putting the earth back together is a daunting task!

(I wish I could see blue morphos, too--the rainforest is on my list of places to visit before I die!)

August 7, 2010 6:33 AM

Julie Zickefoose said...

Uh oh! I think I've been pulling that off my roses all summer! Science Chimp slinks away, head hanging...I'm gonna look for caterpiggles tomorrow...

Appalachian Lady said...

Great photos and not sure I have that vine but I've letting plenty of milkweed and orange milkweed grow. I haven't seen a caterpillar yet but have seen a couple of monarchs.

You will like spicebush--I can't think of any minuses and it attracts the spicebush butterfly as well as birds for the red berries.

Deborah Carr said...

I planted much parsley this year, but in vain...not a single monarch have I seen. Lucky you.

LW said...

Wow! Absolutely loved the picture of the caterpillar on the dill. How beautiful, and inspiring!


nina at Nature Remains. said...

Deborah--Maybe the swallowtails found your parsley? Black swallowtail caterpillars feed on members of that family--like Queen Anne's lace, fennel, dill,...
Try milkweeds if you're hoping for monarchs, although I think planting for any butterfly is nice!

Q said...

Hi Nina,
I too let the vines vine away...the cats do seem to love it.
I grow for the bugs...all of them. If leaves are not being eaten I wonder what's up!
Gorgeous photographs.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Julie--I had NO idea to spare this creeper from my garden until, 3 years ago, I ended up spotting a tiny monarch cat(only clearly striped if you used a magnifying glass)on a handful I'd pulled and thrown in a heap.
I pawed through the pile and found a couple more...and vowed to never pull it out again. Of course, my garden suffers, and my house may soon be swallowed by the stuff,...but...the butterflies.

Australia Rainforest said...
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