Sunday, August 29, 2010

Uncommonly Beautiful Milkweed

For all the years I've grown flowers, I've always pulled this plant out of my flower beds, believing it to be a weed.  That is, until this year.  For two years now, I've somehow managed to get myself up to my eyeballs in pollinators, their habitat and conservation.
In doing so, learning  milkweed is the only host plant for the monarch butterfly.  So I have gone forth and planted several Butterfly Weed plants, (asclepias tuberosa) around my property.  While aware there were other types of milkweeds I could plant, I've had no luck in coming across them when planting time came around.  One thing leads to another, you get busy, it gets later in the season and too hot to plant, you're burned out and busy watering.....well, I'm sure you know how it goes.  The search for other milkweeds gets abandoned.

When this volunteer showed up in the Pollinator Demonstration Garden this summer, Ray quickly identified it as a milkweed, and I decided it just had to stay.  Since I've always tossed this as a weed, I've never seen it in bloom.  I've been watching it all summer, eagerly looking forward to seeing the flowers it would produce.

Since I enjoy this type of surprise, I resisted the impulse to google it to see what it was going to look like.
At long last, the moment I had been waiting for had arrived.  Last week, while doing my field report on the bee population for Penn State, I was delighted to find what you see here.  I was so glad I had my camera with me and would be able to photograph the beauty of this plant.

I couldn't resist capturing with my camera, this little lady in hiding.

I think somebody should tell her the polka dots are a giveaway!

So if you see this plant sprouting in your flower beds, welcome it.
It's one of the good guys!
Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca


  1. The other thing about this 'weed' that surprised me was the heady aroma of the scent from the flower. The seed pods also make attractive dried flower arrangements, and chasing after the wind-blown seed fluff while walking back from school in the Fall, has fond childhood memories for me, although these days I'm more apt to watch the dog bounce after it.

    Here's the USDA list of Asclepias species.

  2. Let it go to seed - wait 'til you see the pods stuffed with silky down!
    My summer after 5th grade I grew a small plantation of milkweed in the conviction that its milky sap would yield rubber if I heated it with sulfur. I even started collecting it in tesst tubes from my chemistry set - but them we moved, and I never went any further. A few years ago I discovered that milkweed sap does contain a small amount of rubber!