Friday, July 11, 2014

Flower Friday: Bring on the butterflies -- with butterly milkweed!

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Butterfly milkweed is a perennial that produces large, showy clusters of bright orange to reddish flowers. Petals are distinctly downturned. Stems are rough to hairy, and leaves are narrowly lanceolate, and oppositely arranged. Asclepias tuberosa is an exception to the Asclepias genus in that its stem does not contain the milky substance that distinguishes the rest of the genus and gives it the common name “milkweed.” 

Butterfly milkweed flowers from spring through fall. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and other sandy uplands as well as along sunny roadsides. It is the larval food plant of monarch and queen butterflies. It also attracts hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators.

Butterfly milkweed is sometimes referred to as pleurisy root because Native Americans chewed the root of the plant to treat pleurisy. Today, it is commercially available as an extract and as a dried root powder.

Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 7-10)
Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 1-3 feet tall, with 1-2 foot spread
Garden tips: Butterfly milkweed is an excellent addition to butterfly gardens as well as any dry, hot landscape. It is easily propagated by seeds, division and root cuttings.

Butterfly milkweed seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative. Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.
To see where butterfly milkweed occurs naturally, visit http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3627.

--Stacey Matrazzo

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