Carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea)

Flower Friday: Carolina milkweed

With its narrow leaves and fine stems, Carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea) can get lost among the wiregrass with which it typically grows. But its splendidly stellar blooms will stop you in your tracks. You’ll find it flowering in summer in sandhills, pine flatwoods and bogs throughout the Panhandle and North Florida. Like all members of the Asclepias genus, Carolina milkweed is a larval host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies. Its flowers are an important nectar source for bees and wasps.

Monarch caterpillar by Liz Schold

Milkweed workday at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ranger Scott Davis has been working on the milkweed restoration initiative since 2015, when he started with a single greenhouse table of seedlings. Since then he has been scouring the state for native milkweed populations and bringing seeds back to the refuge to propagate. He estimates that 300,000 plants have been grown there, which have been planted as part of restoration projects at state parks, state forests and national wildlife refuges across the state. It is no easy task to grow these plants, either.

Milkweed is critical food for Monarch larva. Photo by John Flannery

Monarchs and Milkweed

Milkweed is critical food for Monarch larva. Photo by John Flannery View as a PDF The Monarch butterfly is in peril Throughout Florida and the United States, habitat loss, the wide use of herbicides and genetically modified crops, and frequent roadside mowing have decreased milkweeds (Asclepias species), the Monarch’s host plant. As a result, the…

longleaf milkweed

Flower Friday: Longleaf milkweed

Longleaf milkweed (Aslcepias longifolia) is a deciduous perennial wildflower that occurs naturally in bogs, moist to wet flatwoods and prairies. It typically blooms in spring but may bloom well into summer or early fall. It is a larval host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies, and an important nectar source for bees and wasps.

Pinewoods milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) by Eleanor Dietrich

Flower Friday: Pinewoods milkweed

Also known as sandhill or purple milkweed, pinewoods milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) is a robust perennial #wildflower with umbels of distinct pinkish-white to pale purple flowers. Its large leaves are thick and dull grayish-green with conspicuous pink to lavender veins. Pinewoods milkweed occurs naturally in sandhills, scrub and dry, ruderal areas. It blooms in spring and summer, attracting many pollinators including wasps and butterflies, and is the larval host plant of monarch and queen butterflies.

Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe) on Asclepias incarnata

Flower Friday: Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is an erect, herbaceous perennial wildflower with showy pink flowers. It occurs naturally in floodplain swamps, hydric hammocks, wet pine flatwoods and marshes. It typically blooms in summer and attracts many pollinators. It is a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterfly caterpillars.

Xerces milkweeds conservation guide cover

Review of Xerces Society’s Milkweed Guide

Many of us are aware of the monarch’s population decline that has been well documented by researchers. Weather, habitat destruction of overwintering grounds in California and Mexico, and loss of food source on migration routes have caused great concern in the last few years. The Xerces Society’s insight into factors that influence monarch butterfly populations has pointed to many things we cannot control. However, the increased production and planting of the monarch food plants, milkweeds, is certainly an environmental movement that can be achieved on a large scale in the United States.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Butterfly milkweed

Butterfly milkweed is a perennial that produces large, showy clusters of bright orange to reddish flowers from spring through fall. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and other sandy uplands as well as along sunny roadsides. It is an exception to the Asclepias genus in that its stem does not contain the milky latex that distinguishes the rest of the genus and gives it the common name “milkweed.”

Are non-native milkweeds killing monarch butterflies?

Tropical milkweed can enable monarchs to continue breeding well into fall and winter, causing populations to persist longer in certain areas than they naturally would. Unfortunately, this can foster higher than normal infection rates by a lethal protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). We have suggestions for native milkweeds you can plant to support monarchs.

silverspotted_skipper-Keim

Know your native pollinators: Silver-spotted skipper

You might find one of these creatures hanging upside-down, but it’s not a bat (or a vampire). It’s a Silver-spotted skipper!

The Silver-spotted skipper is one of the largest, most widespread and recognizable skippers. It has a quick jerky flight that is typical of skippers. This type of butterfly is common and can be found from northern Mexico to southern Canada, as well as most of the continental United States.You can find Silver-spotted skippers throughout Florida. These butterflies enjoy a disturbed habitat, open woods, foothills, stream sides, prairie waterways, edges of forests, swamps, brushy areas and other open areas with nectar plants.

Warea_amplexifolia-Keim

Sept. 7 Warea Tract Service Day

Join us on our Sept. 7 service project as we visit and help protect Seminole State Forest’s Warea Tract. We will be removing invasive Natal grass and learning about the importance of the tract from Forester Mike Martin. The Warea Tract holds many threatened and endangered species we may have the opportunity to see, including Florida bonamia (Bonamia grandiflora), Lewton’s polygala (Polygala lewtonii), Sweet-scented pigeonwings (Clitoria fragrans), Scrub plum (prunus geniculata) and Scrub buckwheat (Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium).