Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Native Milkweed/Monarch Butterfly Presentation

The 1st day of Spring in 2019 is officially Wednesday, March 20th, but a quick check outside, reveals nature operates on a schedule all her own.

The Monarch-Milkweed Initiative takes proactive action statewide to save the world's most recognizable butterfly species. 

On Thursday, 3/14, the first MMI presentation was launched at Celestial Farms on the north side of Jacksonville.  At the invitation of Duval County 4H, a pair of master gardeners shared their knowledge of native milkweed plants and the national campaign to save the Monarch butterfly species.  The class and activities tied into the group's ongoing study with the 4H Project Monarch plan.

Photo:  George DeMarino discussing the anatomy & metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly (12 kids/6 parents)

Celestial Farms 4H was awarded a grant to grow 1,000 native milkweed plants from seed which will be dispersed in various locations around the city. The majority of the new plants are Asclepias Verticillata or Whorled.  While some seed was scattered in their established butterfly garden, the heart of the project involved individual seeds planted by hand.

Photo:  The wall of potted seeds, the 4H butterfly garden and photo of a matured whorled milkweed plant

Live monarch caterpillars were included in the class & visually assisted the participants in learning the impressive metamorphosis cycle. Post meeting, the 4H students enthusiastically jumped in to transfer the same caterpillars to live milkweed in their garden and help MG Candace Barone plant native Tuberosa starters along with some donated nectar plants to attract more pollinators.  A DIY butterfly puddler was put together and placed in the garden to finish the afternoon project.

Awareness is spreading from both ends of the County and people of all ages are learning the importance of planting native Florida milkweed.

If you would to offer this presentation to a group, please email a request to:  The next scheduled workshop will be offered on May 4th, 2019 at the Mandarin Garden Club public event:  25th Anniversary of the Taylor Native Garden.

The ongoing work to raise more starter milkweed should yield new plants for the Mandarin Garden Club May workshop and their annual plant sale on Saturday, April 27th.    

Open to the public Monday-Friday, Celestial Farms, a non-profit organization, is home to many groups, offers a wonderful children's camp & sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals.

13958 Duval Rd 32218

   Submitted by:  MG Candace Barone

Monday, March 4, 2019


I don’t usually write about insects . . . they are not one of my abiding interests.  However --  there is one insect which intrudes on my person, and keeps reminding me of its presence for several days afterward.  That is the Twig Ant (I called them Tree Ants before I found out the real name).  Pseudomyrmex gracilis  ants really do live in trees (until they fall onto your neck or crawl onto your arm when you reach into a bush).  They are invaders from Mexico (undocumented?) and now reside all along our southern tier states.

They do not bite, but sting; their venom feels like a hard pinch for 30 minutes or more and they can repeatedly sting on one visit.  After you feel the sting, you will see a pretty big swelling around the sting that will go down in a few hours.  Just when you feel like that bite is over, here comes the itch.  It is an intense itch that can last for several days. As far as I know you just have to grit your teeth and swallow hard to get over it.

You will recognize this ant as a large slender ant that is either dark reddish brown or black.  There are much longer identifications that I have read, but that’s all you really need (or maybe want) to know.  If you want to do further research, I suggest you use their scientific name in your internet browser.  These things have a really bad disposition, and will bite at the least provocation, including getting trapped in your clothes.  Some people advise that you not smack them, but flick them off with your finger.  Supposedly you have less a chance of being stung.  (Okay, if you say so !!)

I hope this doesn’t deter you from gardening, it’s a small price to pay for such beauty and personal satisfaction.

May your horticultural results be as fulfilling as your gardening diligence.    

Martha Dysart.