Milkweed and Monarch's

One afternoon setting out on game drive a guest asked me about a tall plant with small balloon like fruit beside the road, it turned out to be a Milkweed (Asclepias fructicosa) a highly toxic plant-however the Monarch Butterfly amongst others utilise this plant for a unique defensive role, the butterfly lays it’s eggs on the milkweed and the larvae feeds on it, once hatched they retain the toxicity into adulthood, hence the bright warning colours.

Other butterflies like some of the diadem species mimic the colour of the Monarch butterfly. Other insects like the elegant grasshopper can also utilise this plant and will exude a noxious foam when they are harassed-Suffice to say that an inexperienced young predator like a young baboon will only make the mistake once of trying to eat these insects!

Sebastiaan Janse van Vuuren

Senior Ranger

Kapama Main Lodge

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