Witnessing the Life Cycle of a Monarch

Witnessing the Life Cycle of a Monarch

It took four years, but I finally got to watch the life cycle of a monarch unfold before my eyes. Here are the snapshots so you can share this rare experience too.

I had the unique opportunity last fall to actually observe the life cycle of the beloved monarch butterfly. It’s a truly rare experience I want to share with you, dear readers.

When I first moved into our new home, I planted some tropical milkweed mainly because I have always liked the plant. I knew it was drought tolerant and bloomed prolifically, and I was really hoping one day it would attract the monarchs that pass through Texas on their migration.

After four years of hoping and waiting, I finally got my wish! I noticed a few monarchs fluttering about and several monarch caterpillars were even munching on my milkweed plant.


In fact, there were caterpillars chowing down on almost every one of my plants — and those little guys are prolific eaters! They stripped lots of leaves from the plants, but I wasn’t at all concerned. If you know tropical milkweed, you know they come back and continue to produce more plants.

After I noticed the caterpillars, I knew what was coming… so I kept an eye out for the beautiful chrysalis. And it wasn’t long before I spotted one hanging on my wrought iron fence.

I knew there’d be more coming, but it was so exciting to see that first one and know I’d be able to witness this life cycle unfold before my eyes.

Magical. That’s the only way to describe the moment I saw a magnificent monarch emerging from the chrysalis.

Here’s the monarch free from the cocoon; the wings were still wet at this point.

If you want to experience this for yourselves, plant some tropical milkweed, antelope horn milkweed or any of the other butterfly attracting plants we recommend — just use the advanced search option in the “Find a plant” section to refine it for butterflies.

Watching the life cycle of a monarch — or any butterfly — is an amazing learning experience for all, including children.

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Donna Fossum

About our expert

Donna Fossum

Donna Fossum is a SAWS conservation planner and graduate of Texas A&M University. She is also a master gardener so she “digs” plants. Donna goes to work every day to be able to afford her love of fishing and all things coastal. When she isn't hard at work behind her computer, she is dreaming of the beach or catching that "wall hanger" trout or redfish. She is a proud "dog mom" of one black Labrador (Matilda’s Sir Buckaroo, aka Bucky).