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.
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.
Fewflower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata) is a delicate perennial wildflower found in swamps and moist to wet pinelands and prairies throughout Florida. Its stunning orange to red flowers typically bloom late spring through fall.
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 (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.
The Monarch butterfly’s demise has captured America’s attention. You can help by using native milkweed species in your landscape. Find out what you need to know to help save Monarchs.
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.
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.
Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) is one of the smaller, more delicate native milkweeds. It is found in pinelands throughout much of Florida. When not in bloom, it is easily overlooked. Its narrow leaves blend in with the grasses among which the plant typically grows. Like all milkweeds, Whorled milkweed is a larval host plant for the Monarch butterfly. It flowers late spring through late summer/early fall, attracting a variety of pollinators.
Largeflower milkweed (Asclepias connivens) is a perennial wildflower found throughout much of Florida. Its conspicuous flowers appear in late spring through summer in moist pine flatwoods, savannahs and bogs.
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) 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.”
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.
Wildflower horticulturalist Jeff Norcini, of OceoHort LLC, is hitting the road for the Florida Wildflower Foundation to locate roadside wildflower populations in Florida’s Big Bend and north Central Florida regions. The goal of the surveys is to build a network of native wildflower habitat along roadsides to host insect pollinators as they travel between farm fields and forests.
The Panhandle Wildflower Alliance’s Fall 2019 newsletter features updates about new wildflower programs, where to see wildflowers in bloom, and much more.