When I saw the Swan Plants lining the road at Russell island, it took me back to the Swan Plants at the school garden in Mangere New Zealand where I was teaching First Grade full of the most delightful children I have ever taught.
They were so interested in everything and I had a classroom full of the things they collected and that we examined and watched and loved.
The school gardener came in one day with a handful of cocoons and caterpillars that he had found floating in the school swimming pool.
“They may hatch, and I thought you may like to see what happens. They are from the swan plants which are full of caterpillars’
Off we went with him to collect some swan branches and some caterpillars and soon we had an old fish tank set up with the cocoons and the caterpillar eating the swan plant. It was wonderful. Then a parent who was a sign-writer said we could have a couple of clear plastic signs, which when put together looked like a glass coffin for Snow White.
This housed our collection of caterpillars eating away at the swan plants, cocoons waiting to be hatched, and insects that wandered into the enclosure, It was fascinating and the children were always there watching their little world
It wasn’t long before the cocoons hatched and the children were delighted with the beautiful butterflies that came out. We took them outside and released them into the wilds and the Swan Plants.
One cocoon that was damaged, was trying to hatch and the butterfly could not get out. A little boy who was watching gently took the cocoon and helped the butterfly out, and he sat on his hand with wet wings that slowly unfurled as they dried out. The children were entranced.
Then we learnt that these butterflies had originally flown to New Zealand from South America. That made them even more special.
When I see a swan plant I again see the eyes of the children watching the caterpillars spin into cocoons and then emerge as butterflies.
The four stages of the monarch butterfly life cycle are the egg, the larvae (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult butterfly. The four generations are actually four different butterflies going through these four stages during one year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.
In February and March, the final generation of hibernating monarch butterflies comes out of hibernation to find a mate. They then migrate north and east in order to find a place to lay their eggs. This starts stage one and generation one of the new year for the monarch butterfly.