Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plant profile: Asclepias tuberosa

It's been a while since we did a plant profile as we've been so busy with other things in the garden. But today one plant struck me - it's been flowering for ages now. This hard worker deserves the spotlight!

So, what's deer resistant, butterfly attractant and thrives in sun in average or dry soil? Butterfly Weed!

Latin name: Asclepias tuberosa ("as-KLEP-ee-as too-ber-OH-sah") - we have "Silky Gold" and "Hello Yellow"

Common name: Yellow Butterfly Weed, Yellow Milkweed, Pleurisy Root
Originally from: New Hampshire to South Dakota south to Arizona, Mexico and Florida.
Blooms: The cultivars we have are bright yellow, but the wild form is more orange usually.
Light: Full sun
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: We have a nice clump in the left bed.

Milkweeds are the host plant for monarch butterflies. The entire lifecycle of these butterflies, from caterpillars to adults, revolves around this plant. I think I might have seen one monarch butterfly in our garden, but you never know - perhaps we will attract thrings next year? We have loads of other butterfly species though.

Because its tough root was chewed by the Native Americans as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, Butterfly Weed given its other common name, Pleurisy Root.

One of the finest native American perennials, it grows about 2' tall, and suffers from various insect infestations (aphids mostly) though a spritz of soap spray usually does the trick. They can be propagated by division, cuttings start well in water, or by seeds. I hope we can grow a lot more.

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