The other day I was working on the High Line and noticed this little cluster in one of the juniper trees. At first glance it looks as though it could be a kind of pinecone on the tree, but it’s not. It is a case made from silk and plant materials constructed by the bagworm in its larval stage.

If you look closely, you’ll see that there’s an opening towards the bottom of the bag. That allows the larva to poke its little head out and eat more of the tree. Needless to say, this isn’t good for the tree. I looked more closely and the tree was absolutely covered with these bags. The tree next to it was covered as well, but there weren’t any on other trees.

Manual removal is the best method for eliminating this pest. You can just trim the top of the bag from the branch it is sticking to. I think we managed to cut down about 100 bagworms between the two trees!

IMG_3288As I was cutting them down, I dropped them into a plastic bucket. I wasn’t expecting the larvae to emerge from their bags. They kind of poke their little brown necks out and the bag looks an awful lot like a hula skirt. Fascinating and disgusting all in one go.


bagworms from Martha Lazar on Vimeo.

Blooming Butterfly Weed


I’m excited to report that some of my little Asclepias tuberosa aka butterfly weed have started to bloom. I really didn’t expect them to the first year. Butterfly weed is in the milkweed family, which means that it is the food source for the monarch butterfly caterpillars. Milkweed is a truly fascinating plant. The flowers have a kind of trap system in place which causes the pollinator’s leg to slip in a crack and land on a sticky clump of pollen. When the animal tries to wrench its leg out of the crack it pulls the pollen out as well. The downside is that sometimes the insect isn’t able to pull itself free, or pulls itself free, but leaves a leg behind. Yikes! Nature is rough.

Oodles of Milkweed 


If you were following me around last summer you might have seen me reach into various gardens and swipe some milkweed seed pods. You might also have seen a mortified 10 year old girl with me. Poor kid. She didn’t get a normal mom. 

After taking a propagation class this winter, I was inspired to set up my lights and heat mat at home. While the Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and the Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) sprouted easily, the Asclepias purpurea end (purple milkweed) did nothing. 

I moved the tiny seedlings out of their initial trays into roomier pots I made out of newspaper. These are easy to make (I guess a tutorial is in order) and are great because you can plant them directly into the soil. 

I have enough of these guys to have a mini plant sale. Anyone interested in some native plants that are the host plant of the monarch butterfly?



It’s about this time of year that I’m completely starved for some color. The crocus are starting to peek out, but not much blooming is happening right now. In comes witchhazel. This beauty is a variation on the usual yellow ones. It is called Jelena witchhazel or Hamamelis x intermedia “Jelena”.