Friday, August 12, 2016

Flower Friday: Swamp milkweed puts on quite a summer show!

Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) on Asclepias incarnata.
Photo by Mary Keim.
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Swamp milkweed is an erect, herbaceous perennial wildflower. Its showy pink flowers are slightly fragrant. They are born in compact terminal or axillary umbels. Individual flowers have reflexed corollas and an upright corona — a characteristic typical of milkweed flowers. Leaves are long (up to 6 inches), elliptic to lanceolate, and glabrous. They are oppositely arranged. Stems are stout, glabrous and multi-branched. Seeds are flat and brown with silky white hairs attached. They are born in pods, which split open when ripe. Seeds are dispersed when their silky hairs catch the wind.

Swamp milkweed occurs naturally in floodplain swamps, hydric hammocks, wet pine flatwoods and marshes. It typically blooms in summer and attracts many pollinators. It is a larval host plant for monarch, queen and soldier butterfly caterpillars.

The genus Asclepias is named for Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. 

Asclepias incarnata flowers and leaves.
Photo by Mary Keim
: Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Native range: Most peninsular counties, Wakulla County
To see where natural populations of swamp milkweed have been vouchered, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8b-10b
Soil: Wet to moderately dry soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 2-3’+ tall, 1-2’ wide
Propagation: Seed                 
Garden tips: Swamp milkweed is one of the most striking native milkweeds. It makes an excellent addition to moist, sunny landscapes, but can tolerate occasional drought once established.

Caution: All milkweeds contain a toxic latex sap that may irritate skin.

Swamp milkweed is available from nurseries specializing in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a grower in your area

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