Pod of the Milkweed

     I have written before about the milkweed, about its starring role in ensuring a healthy population of monarch butterflies, about the winter beauty of  its pods, dry and open, still embracing some of the fall’s silken seeds.  

     But now, it’s mid-summer, and this year’s pods are just getting started.  They are small, soft, and green, clustered under the  dying flowers so loved by butterflies and bees.  As I visited and photographed a stand of milkweed along our road yesterday, I delighted to see a monarch caterpillar stretched along one of the leaves.

     I hope you will enjoy my photos below, as well as Robert Frost’s poem.  It is a beautiful poem, I think, full of wonder at the wild enthusiasm the unassuming plant inspires among butterflies.–April Moore

emerging milkweed pods among dying flowers

emerging milkweed pods among dying flowers

monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf

monarch caterpillar on milkweed leaf


Calling all butterflies of every race
From source unknown but from no special place
They ever will return to all their lives,
Because unlike the bees they have no hives,
The milkweed brings up to my very door
The theme of wanton waste in peace and war
As it has never been to me before.
And so it seems a flower’s coming out
That should if not be talked then sung about.
The countless wings that from the infinite
Make such a noiseless tumult over it
Do no doubt with their color compensate
For what the drab weed lacks of the ornate.
For drab it is its fondest must admit.
And yes, although it is a flower that flows
With milk and honey, it is bitter milk,
As anyone who ever broke its stem
And dared to taste the wound a little knows.
It tastes as if it might be opiate.
But whatsoever else it may secrete,
Its flowers’ distilled honey is so sweet|
It makes the butterflies intemperate.
There is no slumber in its juice for them.
One knocks another off from where he clings.
They knock the dyestuff off each other’s wings–
With thirst on hunger to the point of lust.
They raise in their intemperance a cloud
Of mingled butterfly and flower dust
That hangs perceptibly above the scene.
In being sweet to these ephemerals
The sober weed has managed to contrive
In our three hundred days and sixty-five
One day too sweet for beings to survive.
Many shall come away as struggle-worn
And spent and dusted off of their regalia,
To which at daybreak they were freshly born,
As after one-of-them’s proverbial failure
From having beaten all day long in vain
Against the wrong side of a windowpane.

But waste was of the essence of the scheme.
And all the good they did for man or god
To all those flowers they passionately trod
Was leave as their posterity one pod
With an inheritance of restless dream.
He hangs on upside down with talon feet
In an inquisitive position odd
As any Guatemalan parakeet.
Something eludes him.  Is it food to eat?
Or some dim secret of the good of waste?
He almost has it in his talon clutch.
Where have those flowers and butterflies all gone
That science may have staked the future on?
He seems to say the reason why so much
Should come to nothing must be fairly faced.



One Response to “Pod of the Milkweed”

  1. nancy Says:

    Wonderful! Thank you, April.

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