Wildflowers Tuesday – let’s talk milkweeds

“The time has come,” the Walrus said
“To talk of many things:…”

It is fashionable to talk about pollinators, butterflies, wildflowers gardens, the environment, and so on…; in particular, much emphasis is placed these days on growing milkweeds to save the Monarch butterflies (for those who don’t know, Monarch butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on Milkweed plants, which are the sole food source for their larvae). (In the featured image it is a Fritillary butterfly (Boloria sp.) feeding on A. incarnata).

Planting milkweeds and other wildflowers that are a magnet for all the pollinators in our urban gardens would help to compensate for the tremendous loss of wild habitats due to land conversion for various construction developments. Yet many people still view them, according to their common name – only as milkWEEDS! True, they seed around, but they are very easy to detect at the seedling stage.

For now I only have images of three Asclepias species, all flowering from June to July:

Asclepias syriaca – Common milkweed, butterfly flower

Asclepias syriaca

Asclepias syriaca – an incredible attractive weed, good for full sun locations, tolerates dry, poor substrates. A sight that may become rare in the near future.

Asclepias incarnata – Rose milkweed, swamp milkweed

Asclepias incarnata

Asclepias incarnata – in the gardens it does well around ponds or other locations with a good amount of moisture; good for wetland restorations.

Asclepias exaltata – Poke milkweed

Asclepias exaltata

Asclepias exaltata – a special milkweed for part-shade locations; excellent at the edge of a shade border/ woodland garden.

There are about 100 species of Asclepias: at least one for any garden situation!
Or, we can choose to follow the Walrus proposition and just:
“…talk of many things:
Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax
Of cabbages and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings.”

(Quote from Through the Looking-Glass: The Walrus and the Carpenter poem)

8 replies
  1. Inger Knudsen
    Inger Knudsen says:

    I never see butterflies on my Asclepias syriaca and I have a lot of them. I see butterflies on Asclepias incarnata and Liatris cylindrica. There are lots of insects on the milkweed but I would not plant it for the butterflies

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      You are blessed to live on the outskirts of the city on a large property where the butterflies have many choices as food source. I have witnessed Monarch butterfly larvae on Asclepias syriaca and it was the most wonderful sight!

  2. Tina
    Tina says:

    It’s so hard to get native milkweed here in Central Texas, even though we’re square on the migration route! I have loads of tropical, which is fine, but it’d be nice to have the native. One of our local nurseries has snagged a grower to provide some natives and I have two plants now–hopefully, more in the future.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Yes, the tropical are good too but as you pointed out, why forget about the native ones? Maybe not all of them are good for garden-growing but there is plenty to choose from.

    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      A good one for sure, but I don’t know if one could use often (really?). There should be some tender Asclepias around your gardens too (or not?)…

  3. willisjw
    willisjw says:

    I’m reminded we should try some of the other Asclepias. We have wild Asclepias tuberosa growing in the pasture. Fortunately it’s in bloom at the time I usually mow so I can mow around it. We also have some very nice Asclepias tuberosa ‘Hello Yellow’ growing in the flower garden. The flowers are great and seems to get a lot of butterfly traffic.

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