Moisture-loving Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is slowly establishing itself in expanding colonies in the garden and bog. The individual flowers, shaped like an hourglass, are a purple-pink color and form umbrel-like clusters at the top of the stalk. The plants can grow to about 4 feet tall and are an important nectar source for many pollinators, like native bees and wasps, flies, and butterflies.

The butterly most often associated with Milkweeds is the Monarch, which lays its eggs on this species alone. I’ve read that Swamp Milkweed is not often used in this way by Monarchs; they are said to prefer Butterfly Weed (pictured at left) or Common Milkweed (pictured below). I always inspect the underside of the lower leaves for eggs, and one summer had three or four catepillars happily munching away.

The most fragrant of the milkweeds is likely Common Milkweed, which is less showy, but abundant and often grows in waste places and along roadsides as a *weed*. Including milkweeds in the butterfly garden is an easy way to help Monarch butterflies and other pollinators. My bee-keeping friend says that the pollen is especially loved by honeybees, but many die trapped in the blossoms. I didn’t find any insects visiting the flowers late this afternoon, but did find quite a few milkweed bugs on the foliage, as well as some aphids and ants. Milkweed bugs feed on the leaves and seeds and taste as bad as monarchs to predators that try to eat them.

5 thoughts on “Milkweeds”

  1. Lovely photos. I also really love the Garden Spikes. Nicely done photo.

    The book you’re reading looks fascinating. I had a childhood full of walks in the woods, backpacking, camping, lying in some grassy field somewhere watching the clouds drift by.

    That it is published by Algonguin Books is funny in that I was just serving coffee from a silver coffee urn that some ancestor of mine ‘borrowed’ from the Algonquin Hotel in NYC at some point – stamped 1897. I’ll have to do a post on it. So, thanks for the idea!

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