Butterfly Weed

Butterflyweed Wildflowers at Raccoon Creek State Park

Butterfly Weed draws you in, impressed by it’s richness of color. Also known as Orange Milkweed, this deep reddish-orange wildflower is several weeks away from bloom time. Never super abundant, Butterfly Week is usually seen in small groupings, it seems to require certain favorable habitat conditions. The flowers remain open only for several days. When they do open they must pump nectar for an array of visitors. Tiger Swallowtails come by, Great Spangled Fritillaries dive in, Silver (White) Spotted Skippers come, Monarchs abound, and Hawkmoths (Sphinx moths) zoom in. The lovely and hardly seen Coral Hairstreaks also fanatically feed on Butterfly Weed.

Asclepias tuberosa provides nutrition to Monarch caterpillars as well. Our Monarch posts discuss how these Asclepias plants protect Monarch caterpillars from predators. Imagine being 100% protected from mischief makers?

I photograph only in the morning, because the light is best then. The heat of the day is hours away and there is little expectation of being disturbed by hikers and others. Butterfly Weed flowers, it is my experience, do not ‘pump’ nectar until about 9-ish AM. Apparently they cease pumping before 10:45 AM. as I’ve observed a dramatic drop-off of butterfly visitors after this time of day. I do not yet understand the intricacies of this timing.

Nurseries and garden centers offer hybridized Butterfly Weed. I have not had good results with them. I think that their soil requirements are specific, and even so when they’ve accepted my garden, they do not attract butterflies.