Thursday, July 28, 2011

Three Milkweeds

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) This species is found throughout most of the Eastern United States and in Oregon and Montana. It is a hardy plant.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) This is another widespread milkweed. It is not found in Oregon and Montana but  is found in California and the southwestern states as well as in the eastern states. Even though it is widespread, it is threatened or endangered in five states, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Sullivant's Milkweed or Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii).This is a milkweed of the Midwest and of the prairies.  It has a much smaller range than the other two milkweeds. It is threatened in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

All three have similar distinctive flowers. Milkweeds also generally have a milky juice which gives them their common name. There are over 140 species.

I have always been interested in milkweeds because they attract butterflies and and a wide variety of other insects.  Most people know that Monarch butterflies nectar on milkweeds and their caterpillars eat the leaves.  Many other butterflies are also attracted to milkweeds.  So are many species of bees, wasps, beetles, and bugs.  All of these six-legged animals have interesting life cycles and rarely are any of them a pest to anything we humans hold dear.  I am happy I have all three of these milkweeds in my yard.

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