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Connections abound on a common milkweed plant!

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) is a native keystone species here in Lancaster and what that means is that an entire community relies on this one species for life. Let's take a look at just a few of milkweed's friends and helpers and how they relate to one another.

Aphids are tiny little plant eaters that suck the sugars out of a plant and secret a sticky substance called honeydew. One teeny little species of pink aphids, Myzocallis asclepiadis is a milkweed specialist, which means it only like to eat the sugars from the milkweed plant.

Guess who relies on those aphids for food? Ants! Ants love to eat the nutrient-dense honeydew that the aphids make and in return, they protect the aphids from predators.

One of those predators is the bright and bold common garden spider, whose bright yellow and black body delights in a snack of ants from time to time.

The common garden spider becomes the lunch of some of our favorite backyard birds like wrens, robins, finches, and even bluebirds.

Talk about a food chain! Each organism relies on the next in order to be well.

Not everyone comes to the milkweed to eat though. Many birds, like the strikingly colorful American Goldfinch use the fluffy seeds of the milkweed plant to line their nest, making it nice and cozy for their young. All of these connections makes me think of my own community here in Lancaster and how we rely on each other for my own food, healing, and comfort.

Just this week, I helped a friend of mine harvest violets so that she could use them to make medicine for people so that they can heal. I cleaned another friend's kitchen and that opened up time in her schedule to be able to give yet another friend a massage. Another friend dropped off some asparagus and flowers that they grew and I'll be able to eat those while I get ready to mow my neighbor's lawn. She'll pay me for my help and I'll be able to pay rent to my landlord, who lives across the street. While I'm there, I'll drop off some apples that I baked so they can enjoy them with their family. I'm feeling a little bit like the milkweed plant over here with so many connections!

How many connections can you count in your day today? How many lives have you touched and how many others' paths have intersected with yours? How are you like the common milkweed plant?

Let's talk more about it at our Community Mural Workshop this Saturday from 1-4PM at 45 Ranck Ave. We'll share plant-based food that will be provided by friends Turnip For Love, read and look at books provided by the Lancaster Public Library, and make art together that shows some of the common milkweed's community members. I'd love to hear about your milkweed-like connections! See you soon, friends!

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