White Twinevine: Butterfly Food

White twinevine (Funastrum clausum) grows in moist places including the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, Captain Forster Preserve, and Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail. This fast-growing twining and clambering perennial vine is now available at some native plant nurseries mostly because it is an easy to grow larval host plant for monarch (Danaus plexippus), queen (Danaus gilippus), and soldier (Danaus eresimus) butterflies. It is said to be the preferred larval host for soldier butterfly.

Other common names for this subsucculent vine include wavy twinevine, milk white, and milkweed vine. It is a member of the Apocynaceae, the dogbane family, and contains a white latex. Like many milkweed, it also is “loved” by aphids …

Diane Morgan (Class of 2012) purchased one and asked if she should keep this vine in its pot rather than planting it in her yard since she had read cautions about its vigor. In nutrient rich, moist soils, white twinevine can grow to lengths of 20′ and intertwine to form of mats atop other vegetation. With care, you can manage this vine in your yard – with the help of the butterflies that use it a larval host. Keeping it in a pot certainly would help to limit its growth.

Clusters of small star-shaped flowers occur flowers throughout the year and resemble the flowers of the houseplant hoya (Hoya sp.) …

Its fruits are typical of milkweeds, long “wands” that split open lengthwise to release a scad of dry seeds attached to silken hairs that act as parachutes.

White twinevine is tropical. It ranges as far north as Brevard County in Florida, so freezing temperatures will help to keep it in check. Twining whitevine or white twinevine can be a wonderful addition to your landscape for its striking flowers and as a larval butterfly host plant. Take care not to let it get out of hand.

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