Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Asclepias tuberosa or Butterfly Weed

From the Missouri Botanical Garden site:  Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Does well in poor, dry soils. New growth tends to emerge late in the spring. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Mature plants may freely self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Butterfly weed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot, and is probably best left undisturbed once established.
Noteworthy Characteristics
Butterfly weed is a tuberous rooted, Missouri native perennial which occurs in dry/rocky open woods, glades, prairies, fields and roadsides throughout the State (Steyermark). It typically grows in a clump to 1-3' tall and features clusters (umbels) of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining, hairy stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Unlike many of the other milkweeds, this species does not have milky-sapped stems. Flowers give way to prominent, spindle-shaped seed pods (3-6" long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. Long bloom period from late spring throughout the summer. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Also commonly called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammations.

Orange butterfly weed is also a native here, seen along the roadside, along golf courses, back roads and in fieldsAlmost anywhere there is hot, dry, clay, crummy soil you can spot a few plants.  From what I have seen, they never appear in a huge abundant plot like the common milkweed, but they are common.  I tried them in my yard many years ago and evidently had too enriched of a spot.  I am trying them again on my lower, south facing bank and not amending the soil at all.  Hopefully this time they will prosper.

My seeds were started last fall using the milk jug method and from a friend.  I noticed sprouts starting in late spring and have just now gotten around to potting them up.  The seedlings are very small and probably only 25-30" germination rate.  But I have some!   It is June 9, 2015 and they are now potted up and placed with the others in a holding area. 
Enough for a couple of pots.
Photo taken June 9, 2015

 All our future posts will be on our Marvelous Milkweeds page as an ongoing journal.

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