milkweed plants, Asclepias curassavica

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Milkweed Plants

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Our new 'Plant Index' page lists all the plants we will be offering for the 2014 shipping season.

During the shipping season (May thru October), our Facebook fans will receive notification of special promotions being offered on our web site. They will also be periodically posted on which plants are especially nice at that particular time (making these plants a better buy at that particular time).

   Milkweed plants (Asclepias) are the host plants for Monarch butterflies...but milkweed is also a highly sought nectar source for many other butterfly species! Aside from attracting Monarch butterflies for egg-laying, milkweed entices swallowtails, painted ladies, American ladies, red admirals, fritillaries, and hairstreaks for nectaring.
   Milkweed also draws hummingbirds and hummingbird clearwing moths to the garden for nectar.
  On this page we offer Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriacea), and Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) when we have it available for shipping.  
Tropical Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Wee
          What's a hummingbird clearwing moth? You'll find the answer on our FAQ page.

We ship milkweed plants from May through October.
   We ARE able to ship plants to the following states within the USA:  Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. State and Federal regulations prohibit us from shipping to other destinations. If you do not live in one of the states we are permitted to ship to, please do not order. We will not ship your order and will charge you a $3.00 service charge to cancel your order and return your payment.

We Ship Plants from May through October:

Most of our
Milkweed Plants are shipped in 3" pots or nursery liners. 
We ship USPS Priority Mail.

Tropical Milkweed, Bloodflower, Asclepias curassavica, Monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Tropical Milkweed  (also known as Bloodflower and/or Mexican Milkweed)
(Asclepias curassavica)

A South American native, Tropical Milkweed grows 30"-36" high and produces clusters of bright yellow or yellow-orange bi-colored flowers (sorry, no choice of flower color). Highly utilized by Monarch butterflies for egg-laying. Used as a nectar source by many other butterfly species and also by hummingbirds. Plant in full sun and treat as an annual. Save the seeds this fall and start them yourself next year (this milkweed is easy to grow from seed). Shipped in 3" pots. Deer resistant.

            
8 plants for $20.00           Sold Out for the 2014 season.

  

 Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed, monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant  Swamp Milkweed, pink flowering 
(
Asclepias incarnata)

Clusters of small pink flowers on plants which grow 36"-42" high. Swamp Milkweed  is a U.S. native that usually grows in moist areas (but it does not require a moist location in the garden). Usually blooming June thru July, this plant serves as a  nectar source for several butterfly species and as a host plant for Monarchs. ADeer resistant.


Perennial
, zones 3-8.    
    $4.50 each

Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet', swamp milkweed plants Swamp Milkweed, white flowering
(Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet')

Clusters of small white flowers on plants which grow 32"-40" high. Usually blooms late June through July. 'Ice Ballet' Swamp Milkweed is a choice nectar plant for numerous butterfly species (including the red admiral shown here). It is also a top choice for monarch egg-laying!

Perennial,  zones 3-8.       $4.50 each 
      

Asclepias tuberose, Butterfly Weed, Monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Butterfly Weed   (Asclepias tuberosa)

Clusters of bright orange flowers adorn this plant from late June through July. Usually growing 18"-24" high, Butterfly Weed attracts numerous butterfly species for nectaring and it is sometimes utilized as a host plant for Monarch butterflies. Known also as Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Weed must be planted in a soil that provides excellent drainage, especially in winter. A US native. Deer resistant.



Perennial
, zones 3-8.      $6.00 each            Sorry, Sold Out for 2014.

Asclepias syriaca, Common Milkweed, monarch butterfly caterpillar larvae host plant Common Milkweed
(Asclepias syriaca)
A native to much of the eastern USA, Common Milkweed generally grows to about 48" high and blooms late June through July. Our plants are small this year but they should reach mature size next summer. Common Milkweed is utilized as a nectar source by hummingbirds and also by many butterfly species. Also used as a host plant by Monarch butterflies. Shipped in 3" pots. Deer resistant.

Note:  Our Common Milkweed are now yellowing and dropping their leaves in preparation for dormancy. They do not look good---but they are still fine for fall planting, and should produce nice plants next summer.
         

Perennial, zones 3-9.           $4.50 each

Showy Milkweed
(Asclepias speciosa)

Growing 30"-40" high, Showy Milkweed is native to the western half of the U.S.  It produces purple-pink flowers and blooms June thru July. Showy Milkweed is great for the pollinator garden, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, and other beneficial insects. It is also a host for Monarch larvae (caterpillars).
  Deer resistant. Drought tolerant.

Note:  Our Showy Milkweed are now dropping their leaves in preparation for dormancy. They do not look good---but they are still fine for fall planting, and should produce nice plants next summer.

Perennial
, zones 3-9.              $4.50 each   

 

 

Live within driving distance of central Pennsylvania?
If so, you might want to attend one of our Gardening For Butterflies presentations.


Saturday, July 19,   Sunday, July 20,
Sunday, July 27,
Saturday, August 9,   Sunday, August 10,
Saturday, August 16,   Sunday, August 17


Please visit the 'Home' page of our web site for more information.

Milkweed is essential for the existence of  Monarch butterflies. 
A Monarch butterfly is pictured at the top of this page. Adult Monarchs (and many other butterfly species) love nectar-rich milkweed as a food source, but there is a more important reason for the Monarch's close attachment to milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant material that Monarch caterpillars can eat. Remove Monarch caterpillars from milkweed and they will starve; or they will eat other plant material, sicken, and then die. The scientific name for milkweed is Asclepias (pronounced as-KLEE-pea-us). Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) is well known to most northeasterners. It grows along roadsides, in fields, and  in open meadows. Producing sweet smelling mauve-pink flowers  late June through July, common milkweed usually matures at about 48" high. Some northeasterners assume common milkweed to be the only milkweed species which exists.  Actually, over 100 species of Asclepias grow in the USA, with over 200 different species growing worldwide.
   Common milkweed is not the only Asclepias species which can be utilized as a food source for the monarch caterpillar. In reality, any Asclepias serves the purpose, although some species lure more egg-laying female monarchs than others.
   Among the Asclepias species highly utilized by female monarchs for egg-laying are Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed, an annual), Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa, an annual), and Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed, an perennial). Both are now offered on this page.


Want to learn more about milkweed plants?  
If so, please read our Introduction To Milkweed.

And if you would like to see pictures (arranged sequentially) that show the life stages of a monarch butterfly, check out our article on 
Monarch Metamorphosis
.

 

Data for 1994-2003 collected by personnel of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas in Mexico. Data for 2003-2013 collected by World Wildlife Fund Mexico in coordination with the Dicectorate of the MBBR. Above, a Monarch butterfly nectars on Butterfly Bush.

Monarch Numbers PlummetóAgain    by Rose Franklin, late February, 2014

Since the winter of 1993-1994, scientists have been traveling to Michoacan, Mexico, every winter to monitor the size of the area that is occupied by over-wintering Monarch butterflies. This information is used to provide data on the status of the butterfly population, and might even be an indicator of the status of pollinator insects in general.

    The size of the area is measured in hectares. One hectare equals approximately 2.47 acres. Looking at the graph, you will see that during the winter of 1996-1997, the year the population was at its highest, Monarchs covered 20.97 hectares of mountainside. Thatís almost 52 acres.

   
This winter, 2013-2014, there was only .67 hectare of Mexican forest blanketed by the orange and black wings of Monarchs. Thatís approximately 1.65 acres, an area smaller than the average-sized Walmart! 

During the past two years, the Monarch population has plummeted to alarmingly low numbers. There is reason for concern.

    What has caused the Monarch population to decline? The consensus among scientists is that there may many factors at play. Among these might be (1) the destruction of natural habitat, (2) the increased use of insecticides, (3) the increased use of herbicides, and (4) climate change.

    Approximately 6,000 acres per day, 2.2 million acres per year, of farmland and natural habitat is being converted to housing developments, resorts, shopping centers, gulf courses, and highways. Natural prairies and grasslands are being plowed under to grow more corn and soybeans, two agricultural crops that have skyrocketed in price over the last decade or so.

    Almost all of the corn and soybeans being planted today are herbicide-resistant varieties. Farmers can plant the seed without having to till the soil, and then spray the fields with herbicides to control the weeds. The herbicides kill the weeds (including milkweed, which Monarchs must have to lay their eggs on) but do not harm the corn and soybean plants. No one knows how many milkweed plants have been killed by the application of herbicides, but likely, millions have been poisoned in the past 10 years or so.

    The widespread use of insecticides to control mosquito and gypsy moth populations might likely be contributing to the disappearance of butterflies too.  Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is often aerial-sprayed over forests, wetlands, and near housing developments to kill the insect pests that must be kept under control. But Bt is a notorious caterpillar killer! And while butterflies were not the intended target of the spraying, I am pretty sure that millions of butterfly larvae have been wiped out by Bt.

    Climate change is another factor that scientists often note as having an impact on the butterfly population. The average temperature is increasing, droughts are becoming more common, and storms are growing stronger. Along with these weather events causing stress for humans, they are hard on the butterfly population too.

    Are insecticides killing the butterflies? Are herbicides poisoning the milkweeds that Monarchs must have in order for reproduction to occur? Are warmer summers, heavy rains, violent wind storms, and/or droughts taking their toll? No one knows for sure which of these factors has had the most devastating consequences for the Monarch population, but one or more of these is assuredly causing the Monarch populace to plummet.

    The honey bee population appears to be in serious trouble too. I wonder if itís not the same variables causing both the Monarch and honey bee populations to sharply drop in number. And if, by chance, that is the case, weíd better wake up. Without pollinators, the human race could not exist. We need these insects to pollinate our food crops.

 

On Behalf of the Butterflies    by Rose Franklin,   April, 2013

   Over the last decade or so there has been a lot of effort put forth to help the Monarch butterfly in its struggle to survive. Milkweed, the host for Monarch caterpillars, has been destroyed as fields and meadows have been converted to housing developments, shopping centers, golf courses, and resorts. In the remaining farm fields where milkweed still flourished, Roundup-ready corn seed is now being planted. Roundup-ready corn seed, first introduced in 1996, will produce plants which thrive even after numerous applications of Roundup, a very powerful herbicide. The corn survives to produce its crop, but everything else in the field is killed. As a result of persistent applications with Roundup, milkweed could be forever destroyed in these fields. And without Milkweed, the Monarch population cannot survive.

   And itís not just in the U.S. that the Monarch faces obstacles to its survival. The oyamel fir forests of central Mexico, where billions upon billions of Monarchs overwinter, are being ruined at an alarming rate through illegal lumbering. Entomologists fear that if the oyamel forests disappear, so too will the Monarch butterfly.

   There are a lot of organizations teaching people about the obstacles facing the Monarch. Among the best known are Monarch Watch, Monarch Butterfly Fund, Monarch Lab, and Monarch Joint Adventure. A new IMAX film, ďFlight of the ButterfliesĒ, explains in vivid 3D the magical story of the Monarch butterfly migration. Itís no wonder millions of people know about of the dilemma facing the Monarch.

   But who knows that other butterfly species are facing the same hardships that the Monarch is? Very few. In reality, other butterflies are dwindling in number too, some just as fast, or even faster, than the Monarch. Why? Because the plants they need for their survival are being destroyed at a rapid pace too. In those same fields and meadows where milkweed used to grow, there were other native plants which other butterflies utilize as host plants.

   Queen Anneís Lace, also known as wild carrot, is the host plant for Black Swallowtail caterpillars. Aster is the host for Pearl Crescent caterpillars while wild violet is the host for Great-Spangled Fritillaries, Aphrodite Fritillaries, and Meadow Fritillaries. Plantain is a host for Buckeye caterpillars and thistle is a host for Painted Ladies. All of these plants, too, used to be much more plentiful than they are today.

   Once wild flower meadows are converted to housing developments, golf courses, and resorts, the newly planted turf is regularly sprayed with herbicides to kill off everything but the grass. In the course of tidying the turf though, butterfly host plants are being destroyed. And as is the case with the Monarch and milkweed, other butterflies cannot survive without their host plants either.

   Many butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of trees because it is the foliage of these trees that their caterpillars feed on through their larval stage. Tiger Swallowtails and Red-Spotted Purples often use black cherry as a host, while Giant Swallowtails often utilize prickly ash. Mourning Cloaks and Viceroys lay their eggs on willow, while Commas and Question Marks often lay their eggs on hackberry or elm. Most of these native trees grow in wooded areas or in mountainous regions where insecticides have been aerial sprayed many, many times in the past 30 years or so to control the gypsy moth population. But the same insecticides that kill gypsy moth caterpillars also kill butterfly caterpillars. Insecticides cannot distinguish between the two caterpillars and selectively kill just the gypsy moths. How many butterfly larvae have fallen victim to this assault? I do not know. Butterflies were not the intended targets of the aerial spraying but they have certainly suffered the consequences, likely being killed off by the millions.

   But what organization has stepped up to campaign for the survival of butterfly species other than the Monarch? I have seen very little in the news about the struggle of the Tiger Swallowtail, the Giant Swallowtail, the Red Admiral, or any other butterfly aside from the Monarch.

   Are Tiger Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails, or Zebra Swallowtails any less beautiful than Monarchs? No, they are not. All of the Swallowtails are gorgeous, maybe even more beautiful than the Monarch. So why is it the case that everyone is focusing the Monarch? It just doesnít seem fair to me.

   Itís not that I think there should be less people devoted to educating others about the struggle of the Monarch. It is that, since most butterfly species are struggling to survive in a world that has turned hostile toward them, people should be concerned about the other butterfly species also. Why campaign to save just the Monarch when other butterflies are in dire need of help too?  

   I think it is wonderful that Monarch Watch and similar organizations have studied the biology of the Monarch, monitored their population status, and educated the public on the turmoil facing this majestic butterfly. But I think it is time we begin to help the other butterfly species that, in reality, are quickly dwindling in number too.

   Letís do as Monarch Watch suggests, and plant milkweed for the Monarchs. But letís also plant dill, parsley, and fennel for Black Swallowtail caterpillars to feast on. Letís plant rue, as this plant serves as a host for both Black Swallowtail and Giant Swallowtail larvae. Letís plant some native trees, like black cherry, birch, hackberry, pawpaw, and elm, all of which are utilized as butterfly hosts. And letís plant some vines that are utilized as host plants: hops for Question Marks and Commas, Dutchmanís Pipe for the Pipevine Swallowtail, and Passion Vine for the Gulf Fritillary.

   The Monarch needs our help. I agree with that. But other butterfly species need our help too.

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We do not accept phone orders.
   Quantities are limited on some of our nursery stock. Plants will be reserved to fill orders in the sequence in which orders are received. Please order at your earliest convenience to avoid disappointment. Please do not order plants which are not currently posted with a picture, plant description, and price.

Rose Franklin's Perennials
107 Butterfly Lane      Spring Mills, PA  16875

(814) 422-8968        Email:  RoseFranklin@aol.com

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