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
Rescuing Biodiversity (publishing in June 2023) tells the story of Johnny's attempts at Wafer Creek Ranch to preserve a vanishing Louisiana ecosystem and restore the animal and plant species that once lived there.
“An avowed student of life and restoration ecology, Johnny Armstrong expertly teaches us how to restore an imperiled southern ecosystem based on deep research, firsthand experience, and delighted observation of the species that return to his beloved Wafer Creek Ranch. Driving his devotion is the alarming truth that loss of biodiversity poses a threat on par with climate change and his impassioned belief that society can alter that trajectory, one acre at a time.”
Cindy Brown, Executive Director
Land Trust for Louisiana
“Up there on your bookshelf between Tolkien and Watership Down is where this book belongs. As an anthropomorphic adventure that winds through the realm of animals possessing courage, savagery, perseverance, and ultimately wisdom in the face of mounting evil threats – humans disconnected from the natural world – the tale is relevant, if not necessary.”
Kelby Ouchley, Author
Bayou Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
by Johnny Armstrong
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