Yesterday I featured the Monarch butterfly and its relationship to the milkweed plant. Today, I would like to share a series of milkweed pictures that I took from June to October of this year. The plant is beautiful, featuring broad strong leaves with a reddish vein going up the centre, aromatic pink flower clusters, slender green textured pods that turn brown and crack, revealing silky white filaments attached to brown teardrop seeds. All of this is documented in the photos below, but first I would like to indulge in a few words about milkweed and its ecology.
The milkweed genus, Asclepias, is named after the Greek God of healing, Asclepius, because of the healing properties of its milky sap. The sap is also toxic and is eaten by some animals, such as the monarch caterpillar, to ward off predators. Milkweed is not only propagated in the wind by white floss; it also multiplies by sending out underground rhizomes which sprout new plants (that’s why I have several plants growing next to each other). If you think of these plants as ‘weeds’, this could be a nuisance, but if you have embraced them as friends, this is excellent news.
Milkweed is a friend to many insects and plants. Some insects are completely dependent on milkweed as a food source. These would include monarch caterpillars, milkweed bugs, and milkweed leaf beetles. For an excellent photo of orange milkweed bugs, visit PrairieChat’s ‘Taste of Minnesota Fall’ photo collection. Milkweed nectar is sipped by butterflies, native bees, and wasps; and many animals, such as spiders, small birds, and mice use the plant as shelter. For more ecology details check out this milkweed profile.
I would like to thank Sylvain Landry of Sylvain-Landry.com, for the added incentive to publish this collection of photos, offered by his SL-Week 13: Ecology photo challenge, which closes in a few days.
‘Slowly the pod would open, letting fly
Transparent chains of pearls across the sky.’
From The Milkweed Pod by Elizabeth Bohm.
Milkweed seeds lying on garden soil, as stars in a night sky, offering hope of fresh growth next year.
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