Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa
Also known as Butterflyweed, this hardy perennial, whose scientific name comes from the Greek god of medicine, is a favorite of butterflies. Unlike other milkweeds, this species does not have milky sap. This species has traditionally provided food, medicines and fiber. The clusters of flowers will range from dark orange to white on tall woody stems with smooth shiny leaves that are velvety underneath. Butterfly Milkweed will grow well in a variety of locations from prairies and open woodlands to roadsides. The seeds are very easy to grow and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting. Butterfly Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots.
Rate: 1oz./300 sq.ft.
Bloom time: May – July
Pkt weight: 700mg, approx. 100 seeds
Butterfly Milkweed can only be pollinated by large insects, a trait common among fall wildflowers and many depend on the survival of specific pollinators. As an example; Monarch Butterflies are specific to Butterfly Milkweed and lay their eggs only on the leaves and the larvae feed on the plants. The butterfly can use nectar from other species but must return to the Milkweed to lay eggs. The plant is specifically designed
to be pollinated by larger insects. The pollen of Butterfly Milkweed is contained in the pollinium, a heavy sticky structure. Only larger insects can pull the pollinium and themselves from the flowers. There are several nectaries per flower, which increases the chances of finding nectar for multiple pollinators, and multiple flowers per bloom. Note that these plants contain cardiac glycosides, chemicals that are toxic when eaten. These chemicals concentrate in the Monarch caterpillar’s flesh and make them distasteful to any would-be predators.