Friday, July 10, 2015

Native Spotlights: Milkweeds

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw

It has been a good year in our region for Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). We have had a lot of rain, and they certainly seem to have appreciated it. The plants are lush this year, and quite a few new seedlings have popped up in my yard. (Seedlings are easy enough to pull out if they’ve landed in an inconvenient place.) Although my Swamp Milkweeds certainly appear to appreciate the water, mine normally get little supplemental water, except from the rain barrel, and the plants do well enough up until the end of the summer.

Milkweeds of course are best known for hosting Monarch Butterflies. I wish I would see more of these in my yard; I was lucky to observe one flitting from plant to plant the day I was taking pictures. Swamp Milkweed also attracts a wide variety of bees, wasps, and other insects. The “other” category includes several kinds of insects that find milkweed particularly enticing, such as the Small Milkweed Bug and Large Milkweed Bug. What I’ve mostly seen on mine are aphids of a golden yellow color, which apparently are Oleander Aphids. They seem to cluster on stems late in the season, although they appear to be more unsightly than damaging. 

In addition to Swamp Milkweed, I grow Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) -- one of my all-time favorite native plants. My Butterfly Weed patch remains small, and as these plants seem to come up particularly late in the season, I always wonder if they will reappear, but they have not failed me. I have to say though that it is the Swamp Milkweed that seems most splendidly attractive to pollinators. Both do fine in a modest-sized yard. I have not tried Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which I understand spreads pretty aggressively and probably is suited to more spacious areas. 

About the author:
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at

This guest blog post is part of a monthly Native Plants series posted around the 10th of each month. Rachel is taking little hiatus from this monthly column in order to focus on some family matters. WE anticipate that this series will return in mid-summer.

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