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Native plant of the month: Asclepias species

Native milkweed species in the genus Asclepias are herbaceous perennials found in many different habitats in Louisiana. Most have milky sap which makes them undigestible to many butterfly species and poisonous to livestock and to humans if ingested in large amounts. The flowers are usually in umbels of many small flowers. Color ranges from white to dull pink to orange red to greenish! Blooms emerge in late spring to summer and seeds usually ripen in late summer. The seed pods are boat shaped and filled with seeds and floss, which carries the seed far from the parent plant as it expands when the seed is ripe. They are the required host plant of the Monarch butterfly and play a critical role in its lifecycle. As a host plant, Monarch caterpillars ingest the leaves. However, milkweeds are nectar plants for many butterflies such as Red Admiral, Pipevine, Tiger, Giant, and Zebra swallowtails as well as many bees, wasps, flies, ants and beetles. Red and black milkweed bugs are destructive to the plant because they eat the seed of the plant.

In the photo above, a Monarch adult feeds on the nectar of A. incarnata, common name swamp millkweed, which is found in marshes, moist meadows, and streambanks. In the photo below A. viridis common name green antelopehorn grows in prairies under dry conditions. We have nice specimens of A. incarnata in 4” containers and A. perennis (aquatic milkweed) in 4” and one gallon containers for sale at the greenhouse. Look for A. tuberosa and A. viridis later in the spring. Thank you Katy Richard for your photos!

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