Common Milkweed - Asclepias
Common Milkweed - Asclepias syriaca
The Common Milkweed plant is a perennial herb that contains over 140 known species. It is aptly named for the milky white sap in its stalk, which contains latex. Plants in the Asclepias genus produce incredibly complex flowers, comparable to miniature orchids. Five petals spread backward surrounding the stamen and styles, which in turn are surrounded by a five-piece corona. These sweet, fragrant flowers range in color from white to pink and varying hues of purple. The flowers are pollinated by Western honey bees and bumble bees, so this is a wonderful addition to your garden if you are raising bees. The plant can grow to reach over eight feet in height, with broad leaves that contain reddish veins and velvety undersides. These leaves are the only food source that Monarch butterfly larvae will consume. As milkweed plants have been steadily declining in numbers due to deforestation and pesticide use, so has the Monarch butterfly population. In fact, the Monarch population has been reduced by 90% since 1990. Milkweed plants are now being planted by gardeners throughout eastern America in hopes of preventing the Monarch butterfly’s extinction. The Common Milkweed is native to southern Canada and down through the eastern United States, which is also the migration route of the Monarch butterfly. Several other types of butterflies are also attracted to the Common Milkweed, so this the ideal plant to attract a variety of butterflies to your garden. Milkweed plants thrive in sunny areas that have good drainage and moist soil conditions. Within a few years of planting them, you will find shoots spreading nearby because they germinate from seeds that grow in large follicles, commonly referred to as seed pods. Each seed has a long, silky white hair attached, which is quickly picked up by the wind and distributed nearby. Milkweed plants are easy to grow and will flower and seed within their first season of being planted.
Common milkweed was used a long time ago with the Indians to cure diseases. The milkweed can grow its full maturity in one year. The soil needed to plant it in is any sandy or woodland soil.