California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Monarch Butterfly * Danaus plexippus

The Monarch Butterfly is probably the best recognized butterfly around.  People often plant Butterfly Weed,  Asclepias tuberosa, to encourage the Monarch Butterflies to lay their eggs (see the single monarch egg below) in their yards.  The Monarch eggs can often be found on the undersides of the milkweed leaves.  The eggs are laid one at a time.  Monarch cocoons can be purchased to get your population started.  The Monarch caterpillar feeding on the Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa will gradually eat all of the leaves from the plants before making its cocoon (see below).  The Monarch Butterflies will often migrate back to their where they left their cocoons.  So you can often get the Monarch Butterfly to come back to your butterfly garden and lay another season's eggs year after year.   Adult Monarchs will feed on goldenrod (Solidago), a number of salvias, Mustang Mint (Monardella) and a wide variety of plants in the manzanita family.  The migrations of the Monarch Butterfly's are legendary.  Many of the Monarch Butterflies winter in Mexico and make their way to most parts of North America.  Some populations over-winter here in Southern California.  There are a number of eucalyptus groves that can become draped in butterflies during their stay here in Southern California.  The Monarch Butterfly in the third image is sipping the nectar of the California native, Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis.  The milkweed has a toxin that gets incorporated into the bodies of the Monarch Butterflies and makes them taste bad to their predators. There are a number of other butterflies that have similar enough coloring and markings to keep birds thinking about their prior bad experience.

High resolution image of the Monarch Butterfly are part of our garden image collection.

Monarch Egg
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed 

Adult Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

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Last modified: November 19, 2014