Hairy Balls and Butterflies April 05 2013

Monarch Caterpillar on Hairy Balls
This beautiful story all began from a casual weekend spent at the nursery.  I saw some plants with funky balloon like balls!  Yes, they are called Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)! was love at first I grabbed 2 of them and brought them home.  The first plant I put down didn't like its home so much, but the second one was in full sun, and it blossomed!
Hairy Balls

Hairy Ball Flowers (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)

Hairy balls are so fast growing in the Spring and form beautiful clusters of flowers.  The shape of the flowers remind me of orchards.  Although the sap of this plant is poisonous, there are still loved by the caterpillars.  In December 2012, black caterpillars with yellow and white stripes were all over this 5.5 ft tall tree!  These caterpillars drink the sap to protect themselves from predators.

Fast fordwarding...
Butterfly in Cocoon
Now it's March 2013!  I started noticing the cocoons were hanging everywhere!  By April 2013 the beautiful Monarchs were born.  This entire week, I've set out my camera hoping to catch one of them when it's breaking out of its shell.  Sadly, the one I followed didn't make it.  The shell got harder and more transparent then it fell off the branch.  :( Monarch Butterfly with Injured Wings
This entire week was such a treat for me.  Each day I got to see a new butterfly being born.  Some were healthy and a couple had wings that were damaged.  My boyfriend and I tried to feed them nectar and kept one of them in the greenhouse since it was still cold at night.  The one that slept in the greenhouse got better the next day.  I got to carry it in my hand and set it free.  This has been such an amazing experience. Holding Monarch Butterfly
Butterfly on my Gynura Procumbens
Here is where the caterpillars metamorphosed, grew wings and learned to fly.  I hope they will come back and visit from time to time, and maybe send their children back to do this again.