St. Michael’s Feast — For Monarch Butterflies

It’s nearly Michaelmas–Sept. 29, the feast of St. Michael– and, right on target, the flowers that colonists called “Michaelmas Daisies” are blooming in Lathrop’s fields.

Today, people call them asters, whose name means “star,” for their multiple petals in a star-like shape. Many of the native asters in our fields are various shades of purple

The purple New England asters (Aster novae-angliae) are a major source of nectar for monarch butterflies, which have hatched on our milkweed during the summer and are preparing for their long, long fall journey to Mexico. The butterflies are fleeing the dark, cold nights, from which St. Michael, the powerful, devil-fighting archangel, is invoked to protect those of us who have to stay here. Michaelmas was also traditionally the date when the harvest should be completed, so all you gardeners, let’s get to it!

Sharon and I have just purchased some native asters for our front garden at 45 Huckleberry, where we have a number of other native plants. These new asters are blooming feebly now, but next year, they should be thriving. Native varieties, rather than cultivars, best serve our native insects and birds.

Walks

East campus: Challenging: Get your sturdy boots, walking stick, and tick spray, walk between the Mulberry Lane houses, and get on the mowed path that circles the long, beautiful field there. Look for white and purple asters among the goldenrod.

East: Easier: Walk down to the vegetable garden and notice the beautiful purple asters just to the right of the path.

North campus: walk the woods path and look for white wood asters. Or look for asters along the path to the vegetable garden.

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