Thunder, who has been unfailingly supportive in my blogging endeavors since the very beginning, is the go-to guy for amazing butterfly pictures, though his moths are even more incredible than his butterflies. In his latest post, he put up a gorgeous photo of a monarch butterfly gracing a similarly colored flower. The monarch butterflies migrate north from their wintering grounds in Mexico to as far north as Canada, then return ahead of the winter cold:
Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed plants and sequester toxins from the milkweed- the bright color of the monarch serves as a warning to potential predators that the butterfly is not good to eat (on a tangent, the viceroy butterfly was long seen as a perfect example of Batesian mimicry, but it turns out that monarchs and viceroys are both unpalatable, thus they are mutual Müllerian mimics).
At any rate, the monarchs are in the middle of their southward migration. I don't have any pictures of monarch butterflies, but I have a picture of a milkweed, probably the common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca):
Note the fuzzy seed 'pods', more properly known as follicles. We have a bunch of milkweed plants throughout the grounds- our horticultural department is very knowledgeable, so they keep a nice balance of plants on our sites. The eradication of milkweeds with herbicides in much of their former range is a major factor in the decline of the monarchs. If you've got a yard, consider planting a couple of milkweeds.
Still no monarch pictures here- thunder gives you butterflies, I give you weeds. The weeds, though, give you the butterflies.