Monday, January 20, 2014

Notable Native Herb: Redring Milkweed

By Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
Redring Milkweed (T.G. Barnes, USDA)
Selected by the Herb Society of America, Asclepias variegata [Ass-KLE-pee-us  var-ee-GAY-tuh] is the Notable Native Herb for 2014. This species of milkweed has white, waxy flowers with reddish rings around the middle resulting in its common name, Redring Milkweed.
Redring Milkweed native areas & endangered in CT, NY & PA

This perennial plant is native to the lower 48 states as well as Canada and is hardy in zones 6a-8b. It is on the endangered list in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. It does best in moist to dry shaded roadsides, woodlands and open forest. While it likes moderate shade it tolerates full sun.
Redring Milkweed on edge of forest (J.S.Kos)
The plant grows to 3 ft. tall and has terminal clusters of white waxy flowers with a red ring between the sepals and the upper part of the flower. This species of milkweed has many of the same characteristics as other milkweeds. The plant has a long taproot that makes it very hardy and it produces lots of nectar.  The broken stems and leaves leak a milky liquid.
Crab spider on redring milkweed (J.S.Kos)
The flowers have a sweet odor. Bees, wasps, butterflies, flies, spiders and ants can be seen on its flowers. Although pollinator fans know milkweed as a host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, the milk of this species is not an important food source for them. The stands of this plant are sparse and often in shade which may contribute to the few monarchs seen on them.

Redring Milkweed Pods (G.S.Williamson)

This plant flowers from May to June and produces narrow, upright seed pods. It can be propagated from the seeds or plant division. Note that it is on the endangered list in Pennsylvania.

Redring Milkweed Close-up (D.D. Taylor, USDA)
Links for more information

USDA Plant Database: Redring Milkweed
Anybody seen my focus-JS Kos Blog: Redring or White Milkweed




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