Tag Archives: Butterfly

Balance — monarchs, milkweed and horses

Leading edge monarch in Spring 2011, north Erath County, Texas.

Earlier this week on the first full day of Spring 2011, I received a communication from Journey North that the monarchs “were pouring out of Mexico” and that the leading edges were entering Oklahoma, about a 100 miles from our place in north Erath County, Texas.  A day before the e-mail, I had seen a monarch in our front field feasting on nectar of wild verbena, but I did not have my camera to take a picture.

The next day, March 23, 2011, I spotted this leading edge monarch in our live oak tree out in front of our house.  Twenty-three live oak trees live on the knoll of our home, a hill really, that is known as Poprock Hill in local folklore.  These trees have been the roosting place for monarchs, I am sure, for several generations.  We have seen monarchs every year since we have moved here and last year I snapped pictures for the blog of a large roost of monarchs in the Fall as they flew to Mexico.

I have known of butterflies all of my life, but only in the last fifteen years have I begun to look deeply into the ecology of where I live in north Erath County, Texas.  This blog I write, Sage to Meadow, has become a platform for me to the rest of the world, a medium of communicating my love of nature, its greens and browns, births and deaths that encompass us all.  Butterflies such as the monarch abound where I live and I did not know milkweed was a prime source of its nutrition.

Milkweed, like many other things, is an example of nature’s complexity and diversity, for although it is a prime source of food for butterflies, its over-indulgence by horses and cattle is toxic and may result in death if untreated.  When I learned of that last year, I quickly researched  the milkweed and its correlation with horses and found that adequate grass and grain prevents the livestock from consuming large quantities of milkweed.

So, the lesson here is balance for farmers and ranchers.  Keep good stands of grass in the field, do not overgraze, and horses and man and butterflies can co-exist.  It’s not the final lesson of life, but it’s one of the best lessons to acquire — for the monarchs can continue to find food to and from Mexico, horses will graze elsewhere and be pacified, and we will be able to look upon all their beauty and grace as we observe from close and far away the interconnectedness of us all.


Green-flowered Milkweed (Asclepias asperula), May 2010, north Erath County, Texas.



Filed under Horses, Life in Balance, Monarch Butterfly

Sunset with monarch tree

It was about this tree, to the right, that a solitary monarch flew out in the warm wind today.

I had to mow the yards about the ranch house this afternoon.  Brown grass ignites quickly when the wind is strong and humidity low.  I leave strips of dead vegetation — grass, shrubs, even broom grass — for small birds flitting among the stalks and even a field mouse running through the arbor they find protective.

As I mowed about this live oak tree, pictured first and above, a solitary monarch butterfly came out flapping, perturbed it seemed at the roar of motor.  It is November 21, 2010, and the monarch needs to be across the Rio Grande!  Not here!  The butterfly flitted around the tree.  There is flowering verbena still in the pastures for their food.  I mowed around the patches of verbena this afternoon before I saw the monarch.  I hoped the monarch would go back and roost.  It was close to the sunset.

After mowing, I fed Star and Lilly and fetched the camera, hoping I could find the monarch and present incontrovertible evidence that they are still migrating.  The tree is relatively large and many options for a sleep-over are convenient for the monarch, and after searching for five minutes or so, I gave up trying to find the little guy and took a photograph of the tree, having to use the flash.  The monarch may be in the photo or it flew southward, to the left of the light, for Mexico and warmer climes.

The monarch would have angled far left of this sunset. Mexico is about 300 miles due south, but the standard roosts for the monarch are much farther.


Filed under Life in Balance