Asclepias tuberosa, commonly called Butterfly weed, is found in the Apocynaceae, or Milkweed family. Butterfly weed is a native Missouri, drought tolerant plant with orangish yellow flowers. These beautiful flowers usually start blooming in June and continue through August. The Tucker Rock Garden milkweeds have just now begun to bloom. These flowers are a nectar source for many different butterfly species, honeybees, digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictid bees, thread-waisted wasps, Sphecid wasps, and even Hummingbirds.
The leaves are a very important food source for Monarch butterfly larvae. To read more about the very cool Monarch butterfly/Milkweed relationship, click here.
If you look closely at the top left in the photo above, you’ll see two lady bugs mating. I looked a little more closely and saw that this particular milkweed plant had several milkweed or oleander aphids on the stems. Ladybugs love to eat aphids and are often used as beneficial insects to feed on plant pests like aphids in greenhouses, so it’s no wonder these ladybugs congregated on this plant. To read more about oleander aphids, click here.
The genus ‘Asclepias’ comes from the Greek god Asklepios, the god of medicine. Asclepias tuberosa is also called pleurisy root and was once considered to be a cure for pleurisy (inflammation of the lungs). Species names are often adjectives that somehow describe a given plant. In the case of Asclepias tuberosa, ‘tuberosa’ refers to the tuberous root system of the plant.
The seed pods of Butterfly weed are called follicles. Botanically speaking, a follicle is a dry, dehiscent fruit composed of a single carpel and opening along a single side. The seeds themselves are packed tightly inside the follicle. Later on in the fall when the follicle dries and opens (dehisces), seeds emerge with an attached tuft of silky hairs that aid in seed dispersal when blown in the wind. The pictures below show the dried milkweed follicle packed with seeds equipped with these soft, silky hairs.