September 19, 2017

Lunch for Larvae

Asclepias syriaca - common milkweed | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Asclepias syriaca – common milkweed | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Asclepias syriaca - common milkweed | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Asclepias syriaca – common milkweed | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

The native Asclepias syriaca is a showy wildflower, ranging up to 3 feet in height and topped by umbels of pinkish-purple flowers which give way to huge, warty seedpods that burst open to release flossy-haired seeds which drift like fluff on the slightest breeze. That is the common milkweed, highly attractive when in bloom to the butterflies, and its leaves a food source for Monarch butterfly larvae. Hardy to Zone 3, this member of the dogbane family prefers full sun and can tolerate dry conditions. It is found mostly east of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. According to Go Botany, young leaves and stems were used as a food source by native Americans, while the outer bark was used to create cord, thread and bowstrings.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

In 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken in 2012, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.