Thursday, June 23, 2016

Common Milkweed's Moment

It is just that time of early summer...when everything is green and growing and then suddenly beautiful, fragrant blooms appear everywhere. Right now, you can't walk much of anywhere on our property without seeing or smelling Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) in bloom.


We started with some small patches of this species naturally occurring in our old field, orchard and flower beds, but since it spreads rhizotomously (by underground root runners) small patches soon become large patches and we are thrilled!



The globe-like blooms are so satisfying to us - we just cannot stop marveling at them. This is a hardy species that grows readily as long as it isn't killed with herbicide or continual mowing. How lucky are we to have such a pleasing, beneficial plant grow so easily?




These plants are seriously humming with life. Most everyone knows Monarch butterflies require milkweeds for their larval development, which is reason enough to plant it, but besides monarchs - so many other insects nectar on the blooms and eat the seeds and the foliage; birds use the down for lining nests and who knows what else? This is a very important plant!

Honeybee...


Milkweed Bug...


Milweed Bug, Honeybee & Virgina Ctenucha...


Sweat Bee...


Banded Hairstreak...


I didn't get photos, but bumblebees, skippers, and Great Spangled Fritillaries are mighty huge fans too. (Update 6/24/16: We forayed out about 10:45 p.m. last night and these blooms were just covered in many species of beautiful moths!! Tree frogs were calling and sitting on the leaves too! It was such an exciting evening...we totally recommend venturing out after dark to witness.)

You can see the pollinium in the following photo and sweat bee photo if you click on it to enlarge it. Read here for a short and sweet explanation of this reproductive mechanism and to see an awesome video of the G.S. Fritillary excitement.


We've seen two Monarch butterflies and zero caterpillars at our place so far this summer. It's still fairly early so we are hoping to see lots more soon.

In the past year, we had a township representative in our county ask us about these flowers and say "these are weeds I mowed for the Ohio Department of Transportation." Yikes! There are hints of change afoot here in Ohio and we are excited to see how our roadside management changes for the benefit of wildlife and us. I mean what do you prefer...wildflowers or mowed grass? You know where our heart lies...

Happy Summer everyone!

7 comments:

  1. I am not a fan of mowing the highways, It is about the only sunny strip many wildflowers have to survive in.
    GORGEOUS Flowers and all the species depending on them that you mentioned is quite some list!

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    1. We need more Lady Bird Johnsons! :)

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  2. Seventeen years ago, when I raised ~1000 monarchs in my Cleveland apt. (3 generations from a starting set of 6 wild-collected adults from Doris Stifel), I discovered there was a plentiful supply of local milkweed along the inner city freeway on/off ramps - the banks were too steep for the riding mowers, so they just let it grow.

    Please note: I would not recommend for anyone to raise monarchs en masse in containers like I did, due to the potential for also breeding and spreading diseases, particularly bad for wild monarch populations.

    Congrats on your profusion of milkweed. It's only late June now, so keep a look-out over the next 2 months, and I'm sure you'll have plenty of caterpillars. Cheers!

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    1. You are awesome...that's a crazy amount of caterpillars! WOW. Butterfly diversity is picking up now. I think more rain will help the flowers in natural areas allowing the monarchs to find us! :)

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  3. I adore the intricacy of the flowers. I poached (don't tell!) a plant last summer which came back this year; hoping for a healthy new colony!

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    1. Yay for a new colony!! The monarchs and millions of other critters thank you for it. :)

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    2. And I thank them for visiting.

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