Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Showing Off Two Milkweeds

This morning, the boys and I went for our first walk around the back 5 in about 2 weeks.   The last of the migrants have arrived - I heard and saw the yellow-billed cuckoos and dickcissels, as well as hearing the warbling vireo.  Mourning dove are nesting.  The quail were calling from somewhere nearby.  And the wind was softly whooshing through the grass.

My most exciting moment, though, came when I found a blooming showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).  I've seen it once before, the first or second spring we were here, when I found a large patch of it on the side of the draw.  That big patch has not reoccurred, although the plant I found this morning is probably a remnant of it.

Serendipitously, there was a smooth or Sullivan's milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii) blooming too.

I think of these 2 as part of a trio of tall, pink milkweeds that bloom in late spring or early summer around my yard.  The third is common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).  This photo is actually from a prior year, because the plants have moved down a hillside that is hard to get to now.

These 3 milkweeds look very much alike to me (and my photos from this morning aren't great), although you can see that the blooms do vary a bit when you look closely.  There are ways to tell them apart from the foliage as well, but I haven't memorized those - it has to do with hairy stems and leaf surfaces.

Because of the position of the common milkweed, I don't check it for monarch caterpillars often and I don't see the showy milkweed often, but the smooth milkweed has been the most productive milkweed in my yard as far as actual monarch production.  (I didn't see any caterpillars this morning, though.)  That's a little ironic, given how much green antelopehorn I have.

There is another tall pink milkweed that grows in my yard, swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), but it blooms much later in the summer and in a different habitat from these 3.  Again, this photo is from a prior year....

All of these milkweeds tend to suffer from ugly foliage as the summer wears on, especially if caterpillars have been eating on them, but they can be easily "buried" among asters or other such fillers - the butterflies will find them and the blooms are fantastic.  With luck, maybe you can find a few of these beauties to add to your gardens or meadow area.


Melanie said...

I started some milkweed from seeds a patient gave me a few years back. It's on it's 3rd season now. .but didn't look like the tuberosa variety that I have grown in the past. .I finally saw her the other day and she told me it was common milkweed. .and that hers took several years to bloom. I'm glad it has a nice bloom. .I was worried!! The foliage is so much different than that of the orange milkweed. .And I'm glad the butterflies will find it, because it is buried in among the larkspur. .and I wondered how they would EVER know it was there!! Thansk for the great info!

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Blooms! I keep looking at all the milkweed in the ditches and pastures. They're all so tall. My sprouts are so tiny. I know patience. I do have some started though. Very happy about that. Mine should be the local wild variety whatever that is.

greggo said...

I've notice quite a few in the ditch. I guess I'm just an ole' ditch watcher.