Author: Amanda Carrigan
All the milkweeds are blooming in the garden! Milkweed (Asclepias species) is widespread in North America, and is best known as being necessary for monarch butterflies to raise their caterpillars. Three species of milkweed are present in the Alcove garden; A. tuberosa or butterfly weed, with bright orange flowers, A. incarnata or swamp milkweed, tall and dark pink flowered, and common milkweed or A. syriaca with sweet scented balls of light pink blooms.
Milkweeds defend themselves from getting eaten by producing toxins in the latex/sap. Species like monarchs who eat milkweed can metabolize the toxins and use them to make themselves bad tasting, so less attractive to predators. Besides monarch caterpillars, several other insect species manage to eat milkweeds. Usually they indicate their lack of palatability by bright colouring.
Swamp milkweed blooming in the Alcove garden
Photo: Amanda Carrigan