Milkweeds = Monarchs

Migratory monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are beloved.  Milkweed (Asclepias.sp.) is their larval food, so planting milkweeds is encouraged. 22 species of milkweed occur in Florida (and in different habitats).

Pictured above is scarlet milkweed (Asclepais curassavica), also known as bloodlfower, a weedy non-native milkweed that often “volunteers” in the landscape.  It often can be seen growing along Oslo Road, which is where this picture was taken.  The color of its flowers is very variable and can be entirely yellow.  This tall, floppy, fast-growing milkweed often is for sale in garden center at a cheap price.  That age-old age applies: You get what you pay for.

You are unlikely to find Curtiss’ milkweed (Asclepias curtissii) for sale.  This endemic milkweed is listed as endangered by the state of Florida.  It grows at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) in sandy, sunny open areas.

Florida milkweed (Ascleplias faeyii) and Savannah milkweed (Asclepius pedicillata) do not grow at the ORCA but are now flowering at the Sebastian Harbor Preserve, a 163 acre natural area located in the midst of Sebastian Highlands for $13,700,000 on 6/9/2007.

Florida milkweed is endemic to south Florida and grows only in dry upland habitats.  With its delicate foliage it easily could be overlooked when not flowering …

Savannah milkweed also was flowering.  Thank you to Donna Winter (Class of 2016) for sharing her photo…

It can take a sharp eye to spot Florida milkweed & Savannah milkweed.  Yes, there is a Savannah milkweed in the photo below.

Exotic scarlet milkweed may be not be the best choice for monarchs.  Not so common diminutive milkweeds with specialized habitat preferences are not the best choice for most yards.  But, there are other milkweeds available from native plant nurseries that make better landscape plants.  Click here for information about milkweeds to plant for each region of the U.S.

Monarchs are marvelous bur please do not forget all of the other beautiful butterflies.  Variety, variety, variety!

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