Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wildflower Wednesday Wonder 'Asclepias syriaca'

The fields and knolls of Flower Hill Farm are filled with wildflowers of many kinds. Here daisies and Black-eyed-Susan's grow along side clover and Queen Anne's Lace. 

A favored feeding ground for bees and butterflies.

Today I am featuring Milkweed or Asclepias syriaca, as it wildly grows in stands . . .  almost anywhere on the land. Here many plants are established between the native Black Cherry and Cotinus or Smoke Bush.

Named after the Greek God of healing Asclepias. The sticky milky liquid flowing through the veins of Milkweed has many medicinal qualities. 

I have known Milkweed to grow up to five feet tall. It's long taproot reaches deep into the earth.

Delicious fragrance of the unusual flowers sweetly sweeps the garden air. An Eastern Black Swallowtail and other butterflies frequent this important feeder.

Asclepias holds another sweetness for its insect visitors. Here a wild honey bee delights in drinking Milkweed's nectar.

Stunningly sculpted florets hang in softly rounded clusters. Whorls of sepals, petals, anthers, hoods and horns. 

More unusual is Milkweed's modus operandi . . . a peculiar way of engaging insects in its pollination. 

 Milkweed has its own pollinarium made up of many grains of pollen carefully packed into two 'Pollen sacs' or pollinia . . . many pollinia make up a pollinarium. These are cleverly designed to mechanically attach to the feet and legs of all visiting insects. You can see the amber colored sacs attached to the wild honey bee's feet. It is no picnic for the honey bees, however . . .  I will share more soon in a wild honey bee post. You can also learn more in my most popular post here.

What exquisite intricacy! 

Another gift Milkweed brings is Monarch Butterfly eggs, caterpillars and their magical metamorphosis. 

For as you all know . . .  this plant is essential to the survival of the Monarch Butterfly. Females carefully cement their eggs . . .  mostly to the underside of leaves. They do prefer younger more tender Milkweed plants.

It is pure joy to observe and ponder the bold caterpillars as they molt and prepare to morph.

To know them is to understand the stillness that exists within change. 

There are tiny white beads along the early forming chrysalis . . . perhaps a token in remembrance of the host plant of the Monarch. Milkweed is an important and giving plant . . . yes it will spread if happy but it is not so hard to control. The rewards for your friends of flight and your imagination, are well worth the effort. To watch a caterpillar pull up it's striped skin, revealing a beautiful forming chrysalis is a wonder you will not have to travel the globe to see. I am joining  Gail's Wildflower Wednesday . . . visit her lovely garden to see other participates. 
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