The milkweed subfamily contains 348 genera distributed almost worldwide. Our milkweeds of genus Asclepias that exist in the North American temperate zones are forbs having toxic sap, containing cardenolide in the stems and leaves that are poisonous to animals except for the milkweed insects, for which the plants serve as the larval host. Such is the case for the imperiled Monarch butterfly, as well as the Queen butterfly and several species of moth.
There are three milkweed species that have been identified on Wafer Creek Ranch so far, Asclepias variegata (white-flowered milkweed), A. amplexicaulis (blunt-leaf milkweed) and A. tuberosa (butterfly milkweed). Butterfly milkweed has roots with tubers. Of the three species, white-flowered milkweed is the most common and are increasing their numbers in the restoration thus raising more Monarch butterflies—a good example of restoration effecting the rescue of our vanishing biodiversity.
The range of the above three species includes the Midwest and eastern North America. The extravagant blossoms are fair game for many animals other than milkweed insects as they are important food (nectar) sources for flies, wasps, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
White-flowered Milkweed, Asclepias varigata.
The most common milkweed on Wafer Creek Ranch.
Monarch caterpillar on white-flowered milkweed
American lady butterfly, not a milkweed insect,
gathering nectar from white-flowered milkweed blossom.
Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa
Bluntleaf Milkweed, Asclepias amplexicaulis
Johnny Armstrong, Author
#Biodiversity advocate. Ecosystem Restorationist. Steward of an old-growth forest and woodland in northern Louisiana. #ForestFolkMatter #ScienceMatters
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
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