Recently our favorite garden center had a greenhouse sale. It is hard for me to pass up plants we love to have in our garden on sale for $2, so I came home with a large healthy milkweed.  I parked it on the back porch until I could pick a good spot in the yard for it. I shouldn’t be surprised since I know that milkweed is the only plant on which Monarch butterflies lay their eggs, but was pleasantly amazed the next day when I discovered my lagniappe – 6 tiny caterpillars munching away at the milkweed leaves.  I had to laugh as I remembered a conversation I overheard while I was looking at the nursery plants.

A lady standing next to me said  yes, this was a good buy for such a large plant but she had one like it and caterpillars kept eating it up.  I smiled and reassured her that meant she would have alot of butterflies, too, since the caterpillars would crawl off to neighboring spots, form a chrysalis, and emerge as Monarchs.  She looked at me and stomped off complaining that the butterflies were OK but she couldn’t take the caterpillars.

It is true, the little yellow and black wigglers completely stripped my new plant, so much that I took caterpillars and all out to another milkweed in the garden and let them lunch there too.  Within a few days there were no leaves left, and no caterpillars either.  Now as I enjoy the flickering color of butterfly wings I am happy they had what they needed to become what they are.  Today I see that both milkweed plants have new leaves popping out all along their branches. I am thankful for learning to let the caterpillars be.

Mark Twain writes about the word in a chapter on New Orleans in Life on the Mississippi (1883). He called it “a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get”:

We picked up one excellent word — a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word — “lagniappe.” They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish — so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth.”…  It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.

2 thoughts on “Lagniappe

  1. One of my favorite words…lagniappe. Who could have guessed 16 years ago when I was choosing Sean Parker that I was to get a little lagniappe…you, Joe, Ben, Jeremy, Kristen, Michala. I love you.

    Teion Parker 713.979.8541


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