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Milkweed Bush OR.

Milkweed Bush OR.

Milkweed Bush

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a native herbaceous perennial that appeals to butterflies—especially the monarch butterfly. Asclepias is the only plant family that serves as the host plant for monarch butterfly egg laying. The monarch larvae, the hatchling caterpillars, feed exclusively on milkweed leaves. Without milkweed, there can be no monarch butterflies.Plant seedlings in the early spring after the danger of frost has passed and direct-sow seeds in the ground in the late fall. Once established, milkweed spreads rapidly by self-seeding if seed pods are not removed. In late spring to mid-summer, fragrant clusters of pink-purple flowers appear. Milkweed's leaves and the milk-like substance within are poisonous, except to monarch butterflies.

Milkweed

The flowers produce warty seed pods two to four inches long that split when ripe to cast many fine seeds to the wind. You might want to remove the seed pods before they open to reduce spreading. If you let the plant go to seed, they will sprout in distant corners of your yard (and beyond), thanks to the silky appendages that allow the seeds to waft on the slightest breeze. They are rather like the seeds of dandelions in this regard. Common milkweed might not be the best choice for formal perennial borders because of its tendency to get weedy and spread aggressively. It's better suited for naturalized areas like open fields and meadows and butterfly gardens.Propagating common milkweed by taking cuttings can be easier than dividing rhizomes because milkweed tends to grow deep taproots, which can be tricky to dig up. With cuttings, you can create new plants in a short period of time which is ideal if you want to get a quick start to creating butterfly garden.The usual suspects are attracted to common milkweed, including milkweed bugs (which don't do too much harm, in fact), aphids, whiteflies, scale insects, spider mites, thrips, and leaf miners. Use a hose, spray from a bottle, or fingernails to scrape off the offenders. Snails and slugs also love young tender milkweed plants. Snail bait works well and won't harm monarchs, but as the plants grow, the snail problem minimizes.

Most milkweeds have milky juice, flowers with five united petals, podlike fruits, and, usually, tufted seeds. Male and female parts of each flower are united in a single structure, and the flowers are typically borne in clusters. The pollen is characteristically massed in bundles called pollinia, pairs of which are linked by a yokelike bar of tissue contributed by the stigma of the pistil. Parts of the pollinia stick to visiting insect pollinators, which then carry them to other flowers to facilitate cross-pollination. This method of pollination is complex, but, when successful, the great numbers of pollen grains transferred result in the production of many seeds. The silky-haired seeds are drawn out of their pods by the wind and are carried off.If Milkweed were as aptly named as Butterfly Bush it might change the course of the world… or at least the migration of a few butterflies! Milkweed is a key source of protection, habitat and nourishment for the iconic, dwindling Monarch butterfly population that migrates through California each year. It is – hands down – a better butterfly bush than Butterfly Bush. Here is why. (Source: www.formlainc.com)

 

 

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