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. 

46 comments:

Belinda said...

Heart-stopping photos, thank you.

Gail said...

Carol, This is a wonderful Wildflower Wednesday post~ I think it may be another popular one for you! Your flower, butterfly, caterpillar and bee photos and the information you've shared are absolutely what inviting natives into our gardens is all about. Thank you!

gail

Layanee said...

Lovely post and photos.

Thomas said...

Very nice Carol. I hope you are feeling better.

Frances said...

Dear Carol, thank you thank you for this post! I was entranced by the plant, the flowers, the bees and the butterflies in all stages! The photos are astounding. Thank you.
Frances

Meredith said...

Carol, this post takes my breath away. I am now in love with the form of the milkweed flower, especially as seen in your gorgeous macros. That soft natural light, the "sculpted" forms, the color... oh, so beautiful! There is definitely an artist's eye behind that lens.

Is the tree that is blooming the smokebush? It is lovely, also. :)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Asclepias syriaca is a beautiful flower with its vanilla scent. They will reach heights over five feet (I had one towering over my head). I must disagree that they are not so hard to control. I find they are impossible to eradicate. I hated to remove them, but they were crowding out everything else in my nanoprairie with the underground runners. They go so deep, it's impossible to get them all.

Kiki said...

Such an awesome, powerful and beautiful post...I always feel refreshed in your magical space..thanks for sharing such adventures in nature...beautiufl photos..just gorgeous..and such special miracles to behold!!
Kiki~

lotusleaf said...

Lovely pictures. The Asclepias which grow here are different, with bright red or yellow flowers. All asclepias seem to attract butterflies.

Benjamin Vogt said...

And it can be used as a contraceptive. Though I haven't tried.... Save the monarchs! Plant milkweed! Huzzah!! I just put in some syriaca, along with many other species already established.

joey said...

Carol, your life is magical and grand. Delighed to catch up, relax and enjoy your rich surrounding beauty. You have a gift for capturing it all!

Edith Hope said...

Dearest Carol, I cannot believe the wonderful setting of Flower Hill Farm, nor indeed the extraordinary abundance of flora and fauna to be found in your garden and the surrounding countryside. Your wild flower meadows are a touch of heaven. So many people work so hard to create something similar but usually, I regret to say, they do not achieve that naturalness and freshness which is so much in evidence when these things are left to Nature.

The Asclepias is a dream. Lucky you! Have a lovely, and peaceful, weekend.

Sophia Callmer said...

Milkweed, interesting, I don't think it's hardy over here, but veery beautiful.
And a beautiful wildflowerfield!
kram Sophia

Anja said...

Hej Carol!

Your nature studies are, as usual, intresting, beautiful and instructive - not mention the beauty of the photos!

I hope you enjoy much your new role as mother-in-law!
And I hope that your health is good and well!/Have a good times and "en stor kram"!/Anja

Les said...

I like milkweed, but have never thought it to be one of the prettiest of flowers. However, those close ups are causing me to rethink that.

sandy, from gardenpath said...

I guess I should go check the milkweed. I have seen monarchs around.
What a neat blog, I will be back.

Carol said...

Thank You! Thank You All for these generous comments! I am really so appreciative of your words of support. Meredith, the pink cotton candy like blooms are Smoke Bush. It is a show stopper, for weeks now and the same soft pink hue as the milkweed flowers. Mr. McGregor's Daughter I completely understand, if you are trying to create a certain habitat in a smaller area Asclepias can sometimes be too much to manage. I do harvest the small plants along the paths and there is where I find the eggs to raise. Then I harvest other young plants to feed the caters... checking to be sure there are no eggs or predators first. Persistent picking will weaken the taproot. There are other Asclepias one can grow for the Monarchs, one you may have is A. tuberosa. Thanks so for sharing your experience! Benjamin, I never knew that! Yes and Hurray to helping the Monarchs! Carol

Commonweeder said...

I have more milkweed this year, but no Monarchs that I have seen. Your post is just beautiful. YOu even found an egg!

Ami said...

Carol: Another wonderful post! I planted my first milkweed flower this year. As a new gardener, I only knew it is a buttfly plant, but boy, how I was surprised to see almost a dozen of monarch cats munching that young plant one day! It is wonderful to know my garden provided something nice to the nature!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

A beautiful post Carol. I love milkweeds, but sadly none are growing here yet. I'm hoping to source some regionally native Asclepias species to plant here next spring. We have Monarchs, so I'd love to encourage them to stay in the garden.

Joseph said...

Absolutely beautiful pictures and lots of great information about milkweed. I'm determined to bring the monarchs into the garden. I have ten milkweed plants that are over a foot tall and up to four feet tall, but have recently transplanted another 32 plants on the south-facing fenceline. Hopefully I'll be able to see all of what you have captured, up close and personal! Thanks, Carol!

debsgarden said...

Thanks for sharing your fabulous photos! I planted asclepias in my garden last year. It survived, barely. This year it bloomed and was quite nice, but I didn't see any seedlings. I am hoping next year I will see more of it, and so will the butterflies!

noel said...

aloha carol,

gorgeous...i love milkweed..no wonder you have so many butterflies in your beautiful garden

Randy Emmitt said...

Carol,
These are some of the nicest milkweed photos I have ever seen, well done! The swallowtail on the milkweed is a Spicebush Swallowtail. I have seen two other bloggers recently mistake the dark form Eastern Tiger Swallowtail for Spicebush Swallowtail it is easy to confuse them no question.

Ellada said...

To look at the nature so close, it's a one thing I love the best. Your macro are fantastic.

Carol said...

Oh, Randy I did think it might be a Spicebush but in the end picked the wrong one! Thanks for the edit!! It is hard to tell especially since I cannot quite see if there was another row of eyes. Welcome Sandy and Joseph! Thanks too to Commonweeder, Ami, Noel, Clare, and Deb. I hope all of you who want Asclepias to grow have good luck getting it established. ;>) Carol

Suzy said...

What beautiful close ups! You live in a wild flower paradise :-)

Rosie said...

Carol, I'm struggling still to keep up with everyones posts just now with the kids summer holidays but so glad that I got to read this one. Such beautiful flora and fauna on your own doorstep is such a blessing.

Your photos as usual are stunning - right down to the tiny little monarch egg.

I also got caught up on your last post - that flora art arrangement was lovely for those clients of yours.

So glad that your son's wedding went well. :)

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Lovely, lovely photographs!

I just bought a few more native milkweeds, yesterday. I have been planting with butterfly habitat in mind, but so far something (birds, most likely) have been eating the caterpillars. Oh well, the birds need to eat, too.

ryan said...

Asclepias are a species that gives me some conflict. I like them, but all the ones I've planted have attracted hordes of orange aphids that I've never seen on any other plant. The aphids are actually sort of ornamental, but then they spread a bit to the other plants along with some of the more common black aphids. Asclepias have such a cool flower, and of course it's good onda to plant monarch hosts. I would love to find a monarch chrysalis in my garden. So cool that you have them.

Jack Holloway said...

"Heart-stopping photographs" someone (Gail?) said above... I agree! WOW. I will not stay away from Flower Hill Farm for months again but come on regular visits! Jack - Sequoia Gardens

GardenJoy4Me said...

Carol girl .. what can I say ? That was a wonderful post ! even more so for me because we have no idea what happened to our many caterpillars that we had in late Spring .. my fennel and dill in the big pot were full of them .. then one by one they disappeared and we did not get the chance to see the stages they go through .. next time I will make sure to have some sort of cloth underneath the container so it would solve the possible drop through the deck planks thing ? I'm so glad to see your pictures though girl .. almost makes up for not seeing my lovelies fly to another life ?
Yes .. details in pictures, that we may miss in seeing by way of our eyes, are wonderful!!
Joy : )

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

That was an amazing post. Thanks to Gail for the link love that sent me here. Wow, the chrysallis photo is something else, as are the shots of milkweed's florets. I did a post on butterfly weed awhile back and had caterpillar shots, but not like these. Thanks for the education.~~Dee

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

These pictures are just amazing. To be able to capture so many stages of the butterfly must be amazing. I don't think I've ever seen Milkweed up close, the flowers are so pretty.
The Smoke tree is amazing too, I've only seen the purple ones here and they never seem to have enough room to reach their potential.

Carolyn Parker said...

What a pleasure to read and view this beautiful post Carol. Flower Hill gives you such a lavish canvas of wonder and delight. The critters love you.

vrtlarica said...

Your pictures are breath taking! I especially like the ones with bees, there are some lovely details there. Excellent photography.

Helen said...

Carol, What an excellent, informative post, with stunning photographs.

I'm already a fan of common milkweed (glad you mentioned the fragrance) and always keep some in the garden in case a Monarch passes by. Not much evidence of the caterpillars in this city garden, sadly.

This milkweed's considered a noxious weed in our city, mostly due to the area's agricultural roots. I believe it's poisonous to livestock. But with no cows to worry about I cheat and allow the plants entry to the garden. They do tend to be enthusiastic colonizers, but cutting off unwanted stems at the base does eventually starve the root.

sweetbay said...

As always, exquisite pictures!!

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Another photographic treat.

Ditto all the above comments!

GardenJoy4Me said...

Carol I had to come back to thank you for your kind words : ) I appreciate them girl ! .. and one day I hope to take the kind of pictures your capture .. they are so amazing !
Joy : )

Linda said...

Amazing pictures, I've never really looked at milkweed close up but will do it now. I don't have any in my yard and I think it will definitely need to be planted in the future.

Kate said...

Hi, Carol!
What lovely photos! I'm so thrilled to see all the Milkweed. The Monarchs must love hanging out at your farm. :)

JGH said...

Oh wow. Outstanding photos, Carol. Really enjoyed this post.

I was so thrilled that the milkweed bloomed in our school courtyard this year. We may get some butterflies after all.

tina said...

Hi Carol, I don't think I've ever seen better pictures of the monarchs. I'll know what to look for now. The only time I ever see caterpillars is when they are ready to change. Not very observant I guess. The milkweed is very nice. I've debated adding it in my garden but haven't because I'm not sure I could provide the right conditions. I love the flowers on it.

Read your tick post below. Ticks are so very bad and harmful. I get bit by at least 5 per year no matter how careful I am. I find many more that haven't bit yet. It almost makes one want to move the Siberia-almost. Stay healthy and take care. Congrats to your son and daughter in law!

Ruben said...

Hello Carol!
Thanks for your lovely comments! You are so kind! All your photos are fantastic, it´s quite an experience each time I visit your blog. It¨s like an adventure!!! THANKS!
/Ruben

Jean said...

I've never seen the blooms so close up before. Fascinating!

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