Favorite Native: Milkweed (Asclepias)

by Mary Pellerito
Part of the beauty of native plants is the role they play in the wider environment. Native plants just aren’t pretty to look at. They provide food and shelter for creatures living in the area. A plant that plays a critical role in my neck of the woods is the milkweed (Asclepias).

Milkweeds are the larval food source for monarch butterflies. Female monarchs only lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweed plants. When the eggs hatch, the monarch caterpillars stay and feed on the milkweed plant for about two weeks.

The monarch caterpillar spins a cocoon on a milkweed stem or leaf and hangs upside down until it emerges in as a butterfly. The adult butterfly flies away and feeds on flowers such as milkweed flowers, red clover, and goldenrod.

Milkweeds are perennial plants, which means an individual plant lives for more than one year, growing each spring from roots.  These roots spread very easily. Milkweeds also grow from seeds that burst from the milkweed pods in the fall.


Mary Pellerito is a Michigan-based garden and nature writer. Mary is a member of the Garden Writer’s Association, Wild Ones, and she is a Master Gardener.  This article was previously published on her blog Going Native.

To find plants for sale locally, check Pick-A-Pepper.com.

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