Monday, August 26, 2013

Milkweed Notes

I’m becoming more and more convinced—now that we noted, with momentary shock, that August was virtually over—that the plant of the season, this year, may be our Swamp Milkweed. We got it last year in a pot with the idea that a modest backyard aspiring to host butterflies ought to have this plant. It is the favored breeding base for the Monarch. The plant did poorly, was quite disappointing—even after I had freed it of its pot and planted it in a bed where it shares space with lilies and grasses and three varieties of hosta. This Spring, however, the milkweed had not only multiplied but flowered, and it now shows signs of bearing ample fruit—in seed pods.

I’ve noted the early flowering of milkweed on this blog a little earlier (link). Then I failed to take pictures when the flowers opened. Never mind. With a little assist from Bear Creek Nursery (link), I can here show the full glory of this rather humbly named but very stately, tall plant. Its Latin name is Asclepias incarnata. It gets its name from the Greek god of medicine Asklepios; he is the fellow who holds the rod around which a serpent twines….

The second image shows what happens after the flowers have done their duty. Large pods form around them—green this time of year. They hold future seeds. Later in the season they turn into brown and brittle pods that break open and show the seeds within embedded in silvery-white masses of superfine hair that carry them off in the winds of the Fall. The name presumably comes from those masses of white. Later this season I hope to have photographs of those as well.

I note, without accompanying emotion, that thus far we have seen not a single Monarch in this yard. Where butterflies are concerned, the most showy community of that kingdom has been the species Cabbage White (some members of which are actually yellow). They rather liked sipping the nectars of Asclepia incarnata, but their real favorite has been our masses of mint and their blue blooms.


  1. Wow, that milkweed blossom is beautiful. I am starting to think that what I thought was milkweed in our yard is not. I also see why Brigitte thought that our phlox were milkweed. What a stunning "weed." Maybe you can save a couple of the seed pods for me!

  2. It looks like we'll harvest plenty of them, more than enough for our own West and East.


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