Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Milkweed: Plant One for the Butterflies

Asclepias viridis, Spider Milkweed, prefers dry mesic/dry
During a walk through the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Inc. display beds I noticed the milkweeds are starting to bloom.  Milkweeds (Asclepias) are a good reminder to us that the main job of a plant is to provide food for insects and other critters--humans too!  Plant one to host the larvae of leptidoptera (butterfly and moth) species.  Most well known of this group is the Monarch butterfly, but other species of butterflies and moths like to eat the leaves of milkweed as well. Adults love the sweet nectar which is also attractive to bees and a host of other insects. Swamp milkweed, common milkweed, purple milkweed, spider milkweed and butterfly milkweed and prairie milkweed are just a few of the options.  Some milkweed species are aggressive so I noted this in the photo captions.

Keep scrolling to see the cute Milkweed Tussock Moth in the last photo.  Can you imagine a child discovering this when they go outside?! 

Is there milkweed planted in your garden?
Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed with Monarch caterpillar, drier well-drained soil
Asclepias syriaca, Common Milkweed, aggressive and may not be suitable for smaller plantings
Asclepias purpurascens, Purple Milkweed, moist but well-drained
Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed, more agressive
Asclepias verticillata, Whorled Milkweed, Blooms July through September later than other milkweeds.
Asclepias sullivantii, Prairie Milkweed, wet to average soils,
 Similar to Common Milkweed but not aggressive!
Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed, average soils

Ohh la la. Milkweed Tussock Moth.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Christina! Check out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension NebGuide entitled "Butterfly Gardening". You can find it at http://go.unl.edu/qmw

    The NebGuide has a listing of common Nebraska butterflies and suggested nectar and host plants for them.

    To see some common butterfly nectar and host plants and some of the butterfly species that are attracted to them, stop by Laura's Butterfly Pavilion at the Lincoln Children's Zoo. Season opening tomorrow May 26th.

    Dan Staehr
    Dan The Butterflyman
    Butterfly Curator
    Lincoln Children's Zoo.