“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly.
One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. “
Hans Christian Andersen
One of the most beautiful and beneficial plants you can have in your garden is milkweed; any one of the Asclepias or Asclepiadaceae family. Why is that? Well for the monarch butterflies of course. Without enough planted milkweed, the monarch population will dwindle and be in serious jeopardy. I have Common milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca) , Swamp milkweed ( Asclepias incarnate) and Butterfly Weed ( Asclepias tuberosa) to growing for the monarchs. And what better plant to highlight for the wonderful meme Dozen for Diana @ Elephant’s Eye , and for Gail @ Clay and Limestone’s equally wonderful wildflower Wednesday .
And while my three milkweed are very similar, there are a few differences. Color of bloom is one difference (see picture at end of post). Common milkweed is purple, Swamp milkweed is pink and Butterfly Weed is orange or yellow. And in a garden, milkweed flowers will produce a beautiful fragrance especially the Common milkweed. The flowers show up from June to August. Swamp milkweed grow the tallest from 3-4 feet, Common Milkweed is next topping at about 2-3 feet and Butterfly Weed is a shorter bush usually about 2 feet tall.
Under-Utilized These plants prefer sun but can tolerate part shade in the garden. They also love moist soil Although Butterfly Weed will do nicely in dry locations. If you want a drought tolerant milkweed, Butterfly Weed is the way to go. I have found they prefer to Amended loamy or sandy soil, but tolerates wet clay Swamp milkweed and loves to sit right in water. Common milkweed will run rampant if allowed so be careful to take off the seed pods if you do not want them all over. Actually Common milkweed and Butterfly Weed can be seen in groups along the roadside. I have found That they were hard to find several years ago, but they Seem to be making a come back Which is a delight for the monarchs and me.
Another great thing about this plant is it is deer resistant. The only downfall I see with milkweed Is that it attracts aphids. But where there are aphids in the garden there are ladybugs. Of course you can blast the aphids off with water.
Some Asclepias Produces seeds in pods arranged in overlapping rows. The seed is attached to white silky hairs. When the pods ripen they split open and the seeds are blown on the wind.
The sap of this wetland Swamp milkweed is less milky Than That of other species. Common is the milkiest and Butterfly Weed is not milky at all. If you are looking to attract butterflies and especially monarchs you want to plant milkweed in your butterfly garden.
Asclepias is native to most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains. There are over 100 known species of milkweed. It was one of the earliest North American species described in the 1635 Cornut’s Canadensium plantarum historia, the first book of Canadian flora.
The genus was named by Linnaeus in 1753 in honor of Aesculapius, Greek god of medicine, Because some species have long Been Used to treat a variety of ailments. The Latin species name means flesh-colored.
Common milkweed is Also known as Silkweed, Milkplant, silk grass, common silkweed, cottonweed, milkweed, wild cotton, Virginia-silk, silky and swallowwort.
Butterfly Weed has Also Been called Orange Butterfly milkweed and milkweed. Swamp milkweed is also called Pink milkweed to denote the flower color.
Milkweed The name comes from the plant’s milky juice or sap That flows When the any part of the plant is cut. The milky juice contains alkaloids, latex, and several other compounds thought to be toxic.
There are many interesting uses for milkweed. The hairy silk filaments have good insulation qualities, are six times blackberries buoyant than cork and have shown to be five times as warm as wool and warmer than down feathers. During World War II, over 5,000 tons of milkweed filaments were collected in the United States and used. And starting in 2007, milkweed Has Been grown commercially as a hypoallergenic filling for pillows.
Also candle wicks are made of the milkweed silk Which is said to burn cleaner than cotton wicks.
Interestingly Common and Swamp milkweed can be eaten, but not Butterfly Weed. The young shoots, leaves, flower buds and immature pods are all edible raw. The idea That they are bitter or toxic is said to be a myth. The plants can be cooked like asparagus or battered and fried or used like okra soup with no special processing. Of course they warn That the milky sap is toxic in large quantities. Also milkweed sap can cause mild dermatitis.
The main use is for milkweed as a larval host for butterflies and nectar source for many pollinators, butterflies and hummers. When the milkweed sap is absorbed by monarch larvae they are toxic to birds and other predators. Monarch butterflies can not complete Their life cycles without milkweed.
Butterfly Weed is Also the larval host for Grey Hairstreak, Monarch, Queen butterflies and Swamp milkweed is larval host to Queen butterflies.
And there are Numerous beetles, moths and other bugs who feed ON THESE plants.
Native Americans have had many uses for milkweed. Milkweed has a high sugar content and was said to be used as a sweetener. Some used the roots as a contraceptive. The root was chewed for dysentery while the dried leaves were smoked in a pipe to relieve asthma. A common folk remedy was to use milkweed for clotting, poison ivy and removal of warts.
Butterfly Weed is Also known as Pleurisy Root Because Native Americans chewed the root as a treatment for pleurisy and lung illnesses.
Language of Flowers
Milkweed means “hope in misery”.
*** Descriptions of pictures can be found by holding your cursor over any photo
Its flowers’ distilled honey is so sweet
It makes the butterflies intemperate.
Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best:
August- Clethra alnifolia
July- Liatris spicata
June- Baptisia australis
May- Goat’s beard
February- Trout Lily
Next up on the blog: The first Monday in October will be time to assess my September garden as we move into fall. Then I will have a story about the threat to my precious ash trees.
I will be linking in with Michelle @ Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday .
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month on the 3rd Tuesday , at Beautiful Wildlife Garden . The latest post is now up about an unusual pollinator.
Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.
68 Replies to “Simply The Best-September”
Really interesting post, I’d just been photographing caterpillars when I came in and read your post! Asclepias tuberosa is very drought tolerant, mine all dies this year! I enjoyed them almost as much for the amazing seed pots opening as for the flowers. Christina
Thanks Christina. Too bad on the Butterfly Weed. It is the most drought tolerant but apparently not drought tolerant enough. As you said before, your drought was devastating and much worse than many. Perhaps it will come back though. It is a tough plant. The seed pods were a favorite part of this plant when I was a child.
Great post Donna, we love our milkweeds! We nick-named our butterfly weed “roadside” milkweed since that’s where we usually see it growing in our area of Kentucky. Our common milkweed we call “farmer’s” milkweed since it pops up in pasture land. It loves to spread by underground runners so we try to keep ours in raised beds, but sometimes it sneaks out.
I love those names Judy. My Common landed one day in the garden from a critter as there is none anywhere close by. I had been meaning to plant it but nature beat me to it…now it has taken over an area but I keep it controlled (at least I delude myself into thinking I do). Great idea about raised beds though. I scattered the seed to the meadow this year in hopes it finds its way into the wild areas again…
Beautiful photos of milkweeds. I remember Common Milkweed from when I lived in NY as a kid. We would crack open the dried pods and let the seeds fly. What fun. I have some Butterfly Weed in the septic field, Mother Nature planted. Gathered Swamp Milkweed seeds last year and have it growing in my garden. You are right about the yellow aphids…it was covered with them.
I know we aren’t meant to wish for plants and creatures to move in from abroad – but I wish we could have monarchs in Britain.
I don’t have any milkweed in my garden, although I know I need to add it. Interesting – for some reason, I thought milkweed was poisonous! And here I find it’s actually sweet!
The sap can be poisonous in enough quantities, but apparently all the stuff about it being toxic is not exactly correct…but I expect it can be if you ingest enough.
Great information and beautiful photos of a plant I barely know. Thanks!
So glad I could teach you all about this beloved plant Cathy!
Love the inspirational quotes you always include in your posts. Your garden still looks beautiful in late summer. The flower mosaic is so pretty. 🙂
You are too kind…with all the recent rain, the garden is still lovely with all the colors coming out for fall!
This quote is from probably my favorite writer Hans C. Andersen! What a superb quote. Like Lewis Carroll, he obviously understood the language of butterflies and caterpillars.
Oh I adore Hans C. Andersen’s stories as well…indeed he understood the critters around us…
I never knew that milkweed could be cooked up like okra. I did not realize they can be eaten raw either. I did know the medicinal uses though. It really is a great all round plant.
It is amazing all the plants around us we just overlook…I love researching these wild plants…it is so interesting!
Great information about the milkweed. Good idea to feature it on nature notes.
Thanks Carver. Milkweed is so often overlooked a s a weed when it is an wonderful garden plant.
Great post! I grow only butterflyweed but live in the country with common milkweed in fields close by.
I love the flowers of butterfly weed and had not really noticed those of Common milkweed until it was growing in my garden. The seed pods were my fascination as a child.
Love that I’m learning at the same time appreciating your photos. Nice caterpillar capture too.
Shey how nice of you to say so…that caterpillar was such a wonderful surprise.
It’s a great plant for the garden. I have all of these and like them all. I’ve never had monarch caterpillars on any of my milkweed but have had the milkweed tussock moth caterpillar. A neat cat in of itself. I think it is neat about the fibers being used in pillows. Really cool.
Tina I have never had this moth or its caterpillar on the milkweed but will keep an eye out for it next year…very cool looking caterpillar.
Such interesting info, especially about the silk filaments in milkweed seed pods! I have Swamp milkweed and Butterfly weed. I have yet to see my Swamp milkweed bloom, but they make an impressive food stand for the monarch caterpillars. They are right by the house, so then the caterpillars crawl up the side of the house and make chrysalises along the eaves and gutters. It’s been a lot of fun to watch! A great gardening plant, though I do wish the aphids wouldn’t enjoy them so much!
How cool to have the caterpillars and chrysalis so close to observe…I agree I wish the aphids were not so drawn to them. Although I have found they don’t seem to spread out to other plants…they just stay on the milkweed.
Hi Donna, we don’t have this kind of milkweed, so we also don’t have the type of monarchs you have. But we have other species of milkweed and we have also another species of Danaus! However, I haven’t seen the wildflower near us, so I can’t take photos, but they are not as big as your milkweeds. I love the quotes too, i will copy that first one by HCA.
So glad you enjoyed the post…if you ever get a chance, I would love to see your wild milkweed.
I remember Milkweed from when I was a kid. We marveled at how each seed had its own parachute! Have a wonderful day!
I know weren’t they just so magical…with the milky sap, the seed pods and the seeds with their silken chutes.
I do love these flowering plants and have great luck with the Butterfly Weed and it will even re-flower for me. Swamp Milkweed has beautiful foliage, but can’t seem to flower. I plant it anyway~it’s a good home for caterpillars. Happy WW and Diana’s Dozen’s Day
Gail I have found that the Swamp ones will not flower if they do not have sufficient water here like this year…but the Common and butterfly weed both flower no matter what if they have enough sun. So glad you enjoyed the post!
You remind me, that I STILL need to plant milkweed, for our African Monarchs. I’ve linked this post in to mine for today.
Oh I would love to see your African monarchs on milkweed Diana…thanks for the link to your post!
Fascinating! I had no idea that milkweed was useful to humans as well as Monarchs. Terrific photos too.
Thanks Sarah. Until I researched this post, I was unaware of all the uses too!
Great post and I learned something..I didn’t know about the other butterflies that it can host..I did water all my butterfly weed this summer as it was suffering too and it did well….Michelle
I was surprised how well the butterfly weed did in my garden this drought summer. I too was surprised to see the other butterflies milkweed hosts.
I love all your milkweeds. I only have common milkweed in my garden, and I have never actually planted it; they are all volunteers. In my sandy soil, they’re pretty easy to pull out where they are not wanted. I try to leave as many as I can for the butterflies.
Once my soil is wet, I can grab some to move them from places they should not be like my veg garden beds…glad you enjoyed the post Jean!
So many things, I did not know – who knew I was getting rid of potential pillow filling when I cut off the pods – there’s only so much milkweed I can handle. Great post.
Thanks! Glad I could enlighten so many…
There were so many monarchs on my island in Maine that we literally ran into them. I love common milkweed but I think it produces underground runners in addition to seed. I think it should only be planted where it has room to spread. Otherwise there will be an ongoing battle.
I would love to have that many monarchs Carolyn. The Common milkweed does produce underground runners as well so indeed you must be careful to give it room…behaves like Obedient plant.
Well-said, Donna. I don’t have any Milkweed in my garden, but they’re plentiful all around here. Your photos are fantastic!
Thanks Beth. Here with all the recent development, the milkweed were absent…I am happy to play a part in bringing them back!
I took the pods from my milkweed plants and tossed them hither and yon in the hopes that more milkweed grows next year.
Oh Mary I did the same thing this year in the meadow. You would think the Common milkweed would be growing there but not yet, so I took the pods from the garden and threw the seeds all over….here’s to more milkweed next year!
that caterpillar is a rock star!!
I always rescue them from the walkway and driveway
makes me happy
How wonderful Dianne that the caterpillars can depend on you! I love all our caterpillars too!
This I did not know. I bought a crazy orange and red for my mom’s butterfly garden this year, and it is doing great. Guess I’ll be adding some more. Thanks for sharing.
How wonderful Carla! I keep adding more myself.
What a wonderful post. I love your photos of all the milkweed and especially the one of the seeds. Very interesting information about the different uses for milkweed.
Yael from Home Garden Diggers
Thanks Yael. I think milkweed is gorgeous in all its forms from flowers to seeds!
I have the butterfly weed and would love to have the others in my wildflower area. So far the one I have has not spread; it is not living up to its weedy name at all! Thanks for another interesting and informative post!
Let me know if you want any seed Deb. My Butterfly Weed is also well behaved.
Lovely to see the caterpillar – nothing quite as exciting as knowing you’ll get flutters later!
Never tried Joe Pie Weed here – never seen it before tbh but I hear it’s also good at attracting our own native Butterflies so I may well give it a go 🙂
Once you plant one plant, it will seed in the moister areas of the garden. I love its volunteers.
Interesting plants, they look similar to my alliums. Unfortunately, alliums don’t attract monarch butterflies.
I never thought about it, but they do look like alliums which is loved by my spring pollinators. Planting more alliums this fall as I can never get enough.
Common Milkweed grows wild here but I’ve added Swamp and Butterfly as well. The Monarchs really seem to like the Swamp species here.
I love seeing the new Common Milkweed growing all along the roadside.
Donna what a lovely and very interesting post, they look beautiful flowers, thank you, Frances
They are indeed Frances and perfect meadow plants. Glad you enjoyed the post!
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