Something you have to love about West Toledo: nearly everyone gardens to some degree or other, and the place is tree-crazy. The apartment complex across the street left a pocket woodland screening its tennis court, so there are always birds (and a FINE specimen of poison ivy clambering fifteen feet up a silver maple), and the Catholic elementary school on the corner has put in a butterfly garden near its playground. Even some of the businesses on the busy commercial street at the end of our block have put in streetside gardens. One of those caught my eye this morning with what seemed at first like an anomaly: perfect specimens of milkweed at the beginning of September.
By now, all varieties of milkweed at our place in Parkersburg (those that have survived the drought, anyway), are thoroughly caterpillar-nibbled. This year has brought nothing like the total monarch-caused defoliation of 2010, but I'm happy to say that our plants are pretty scruffy-looking. These, on the other hand, were perfect: big, fat, gorgeous leaves of asclepias syriaca with not a bug-chomped edge anywhere. Being the worrying kind, I couldn't help but wonder if this milkweed perfection this late in the season signalled a shortage of monarchs, but then I noticed the eggs, small, whitish deposits on many of the leaves. Given that the time from egg to adult monarch is around a month, bringing us into October, I hope that this generation hatches and gets on its way to Mexico before the first frost.