My vote for the MVP (most valuable plant) in our Wonder Gardens is the beloved Makalapua. A leggy bush I look up at with lavendar, star-shaped buds the size of half dollars, "crown flower" is a staple of the Monarch butterfly's ravenous catepillar. Every stage of the stunning butterfly's life cycle is apparent on the bush - miraculously-spotted, yellow striped babies; hungry, adult catepillars so big you can watch their mouths open and close as they devour leaves; lime green chyrsalis with gold thread spots; glossy brown chrysalis opaque with the threat of bursting open; adult butterflies in soaring, skirting fly-bys.
It's true that bugs bring bugs. As a hub of bug activity, students have observed praying mantis stalk and kill bees; centepedes curled up on lower leaves so they can pounce on passing by cockroaches; mama butterfly lay one freckle-sized egg in the cup of a leaf; chrysalis gently crack open to let a new, wet-winged butterfly emerge. Children of all ages stare with fascination at the sqirming life cycle before them.
Last week for some unseen reason, the Makalapua took center stage in garden class. The bush sits out of recess boundaries. The only time students get to bond with the bush is during garden class but for some reason, groups of students were found around the off-limits bush in various stages of wonder - catepillar-draped children, children capturing catepillars and secluding them to boxes only to abandom them when the bell rang, sweet little girls petting catepillars with extreme care.
I knew they needed time with the bush to learn how to handle being so close to something so inviting and squiggly and NOT PICKING THEM UP. Maintaining and slowing down and watching the catepillars and not needing to handle them is hard when you are three and a half feet tall. Holding them and not accidentally and tragically killing them is even harder. "How would you like to be cruising at home, eating dinner, when a big hand lifts off your roof and picks you up off the couch and puts you on his shoulder and walks far away from your home over hot rocks and dry lava gravel and then puts you down and walks away?" How can chrysalis form if the catepillars are spead all over campus, away from their food? How can butterflys hatch if chysalis can't be formed?
I invite anyone reading this to come check out this fascinating plant. The lessons it teaches are priceless. The beneficial insects it invites to the garden are invaluable. Makalapua also grows by cuttings and I know where there's a healthy bush.....
Krista Joan says:
My mission is to teach, train, and testify in resistance to the white supremacy of my ancestors. My personal choices are political, powerful, and practical. Let's trash waste.