Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Perhaps if we renamed them

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About a year ago a friend of mine was out trying to buy milkweeds for her gardens. That reminded me that I wanted a milkweed, too. I went searching but couldn’t find regular, everyday milkweeds at any of the nurseries. I’m thinking that, perhaps, if we were to rename them, say, butterfly bushes, the nurseries might carry them. Anyways……..

The last nursery I stopped at had an interesting tree near the checkout stand. Looked like this:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I wandered around the nursery looking for plants that I didn’t have, that I needed, that I wanted. I found a few, but I kept coming back to that tree with the Chinese lanterns hanging on it.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I had not seen any for sale so I asked about it. The plant lady told me that it was a Gomphocarpus physocarpus, that it was in the milkweed family, and that it always had monarch caterpillars and butterflies on it each year. She said she thought it was about ten years old.

I asked her if she had any for sale. She had “a few in back” so she went to get me one. It was just a little thing on July 17, 2018:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Here is what mine looked like on May 26 when I saw the first monarch butterfly on it:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

It looks like this today, full of Chinese lanterns:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

This thing blooms year-round, and I have seen monarch butterflies on it, lots of caterpillars, but no chrysalises. I’m thinking there might be some predators around who snack on the caterpillars before they can hide in their chrysalises.

Here is a 31-second video of a monarch caterpillar chomping down on it:

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6 thoughts on “Perhaps if we renamed them

  1. Merrilee ‘Annie’ Morgan

    I love that milkweed species, and while I’ve never heard the seed pods called Chinese lanterns they do look like them. I learned their name as a much bawdier one that always makes me laugh as they look just like it.

    Few predators eat the caterpillars, although there are birds that will if they discover them, and where I live it’s the California towhee. It’s more likely that the caterpillars are crawling elsewhere to go into their chrysalis. In the 6 years I’ve been raising monarchs I’ve never had one form on the milkweed, but instead find them up to 20’ or even farther away up on the eves, hanging from the side of a pot or under a shelf, or even on attached to the center section of a wheel of a recycling bin! I never know where they’ll be!

    Liked by 1 person

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