Admire Swamp Milkweed?

Swamp Milkweed, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

Growing at the edge of that Tamarack acid bog, there were this one and another nearby, both standalones. Swamp milkweed, one of our native Asclepias milkweeds. I had to stop and admire.

They sway gracefully in wind, but hold their posture effectively. Once their individual flower buds open, they attract butterflies from great distance. A Great spangled fritillary butterfly flew in during my watch, and it stayed for many minutes, sipping seriously across the flower heads. Sugar, pollen and available proteins, a healthy cocktail for butterfly nourishment and reproductive health.

Just 70′ or so from the ancient bog itself, this swamp milkweed shows no discomfort with the relatively acid environment around it.

We won’t know if Monarch butterflies took nectar here. I hope they did, for it could only have been good Monarch nutrient!


3 thoughts on “Admire Swamp Milkweed?

  1. Many, myself included, would like to change the name of Swamp milkweed to something more fitting for this gorgeous nectar rich “butterfly magnet”. People I talk to about growing milkweed in their gardens for monarchs and other pollinators often say “I don’t want to grow a swamp weed in my well tended formal flower garden. It is hard to convince them that the habits of this sweet vanilla smelling asclepias makes it perfect for small or formal gardens. Even in the wild it is a solitary plant with roots that spread out in a small circle around the plant, unlike common milkweed that has deep taproots which quickly spread into an unruly colony that wreaks havoc on the more formal garden. They also do not realize that this lovely plant asclepis incarnata will grow in normal gardens and does not need to have wet feet. It likes a good soaking in really hot weather or it tends to wilt, but otherwise it is quite adaptable to areas that are drier than a swamp or lakeside. They have smaller leaves that stay moist and tender for weeks after common milkweed leaves start to dry and difficult for newly hatched larvae to feed on. I have both types of milkweed in my gardens and the female monarchs that come back first in the spring seem to prefer the soft tender leaves and buds of common milkweed. Later in the summer when they are laying the last eggs of the season (the ones that will be migrating south in the fall) they lay the majority of their eggs on my swamp milkweeds because the leaves are more tender and suitable for newly hatched caterpillars to munch on. Once the caterpillar gets larger some of them move to the common milkweed nearby. As an added bonus, swamp milkweed has been cultivated and comes in white and paler pink, as well as the dark pink color found in the wild. If you are looking for cultivars at local nursery look for the names” Cinderella, Milkmaid, Ice Ballet, and Soulmate”. As you can tell I have nothing but good things to say about this gorgeous plant with the less than gorgeous moniker ! I encourage my common milkweed to grow at the edges of my yard and in my small meadow, but Swamp Milkweed has a special front and center place in my formal gardens. Plant it and they will come!

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  2. such a simple plant, that is so critical to so many phases of pollinator life. a lovely shot of “common” native plant so missed out by so many..excellent way to educate and get the work out Jeffrey! was thrilled with the plants in the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch habitat in 2016. looking forward to the 2017 plants

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    • Thanks Judgeva. You happily remind me that we, we have so much to strive for in these coming years, all left to do is connect the remaining 334,725,016 Americans and 41,565,836 illegals here with the fauna and botany that many have bravely fought to conserve, and love.


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