The common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is in bloom around Maryland. Known more for its seeds and their parachute-like fluffs that the wind disperses, milkweeds produce large clumps of very fragrant flowers. I often find milkweed plants at this time of the year not by sight but by scent, simply following the rich fragrance to stands of milkweed.
Of course, many of us know milkweed as food for monarch butterfly caterpillars, and this is one of the reasons I grow several species in my gardens. But milkweeds and their flowers do more than serve as a tasty meal for monarch caterpillars. Many pollinators, including honey and bumble bees, seek out their flowers’ nectar. Scores of butterflies, other than monarchs, visit milkweeds. Milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) are also prevalent, and although these Hemiptera suck the sap of the plants, they rarely do any significant damage, at least not that I’ve seen.
Last year, my milkweed plants saw at least a dozen monarchs pupate, and I have high hopes that 2019 will see a lot more of these butterflies hatch from these wonderful wildflowers.
Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave your thoughts.