‘Whorled Milkweed’ – Host for Monarchs

Asclepias verticillata ‘Whorled Milkweed’ is native to the United States. I purchased this at our local Native Plant Sale back in June. It blooms from June-September. My plant is just getting buds on the stems that are a orangish shade. Once it blooms it has clusters of white flowers on stems of slender fern like foliage. It grows 1-3 ft tall, prefers sun-part shade conditions and likes average-poor well drained dry soil. In addition, it is drought tolerant and deer resistant as well as a host plant for Monarch butterflies. The nectar of the flowers attract bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, and beetles. Bees or wasps are the more effective pollinators. Predatory insects that will visit are Ambush Bug and Mantids. The Yellow Milkweed Aphid extracts juices from the stems and leaves of the plant. In turn the Aphids will attract Ladybird Beetles and Green Lacewings which are beneficial insects that feed on the Aphids. The caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly feed on the foliage and flowers. In fact, Milkweeds in general are the only type of plant where the eggs are laid and the larvae will feed & mature into a chrysalis. According to Wikipedia it has been used as a medicinal plant by Native Americans in the past. But I didn’t find any specific medicinal uses noted anywhere. The sap was boiled into a gum like substance that becomes hard and is added to salmon fat or deer grease to create a chewing gum. That doesn’t sound too appealing to me. Yet this plant is poisonous and should not be ingested. An interesting fact I found is this toxin makes the Monarch Butterfly taste bad to most animals. This is nature’s way of stepping in and ensuring survival of the species I guess.


23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cindy on August 9, 2008 at 4:13 am

    Your description makes this sound like the best plant to have in the garden! I have always wanted to try growing milkweed for the monarchs. I will have to be on the look out for this in the future.


  2. Posted by Nancy J. Bond on August 9, 2008 at 4:26 am

    It has very interesting foliage, as well as being a butterfly magnet. 🙂


  3. Posted by Aunt Debbi/kurts mom on August 9, 2008 at 5:20 am

    I found the milk weed family to be difficult to take care of in the nursery. Controlling the aphids was a problem there. The variety you have looks cool. We grow passion vine for the fritillary butterflys. The passion vine is supposed to make the caterpillars toxic to preditors. Great post.


  4. Posted by Northern Shade on August 9, 2008 at 5:30 am

    Have you noticed any monarch customers at the milkweed restaurant yet? It will be fun watching them through their life cycle.


  5. Posted by OhioMom on August 9, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Great post, look forward to seeing butterflies in your garden 🙂


  6. Posted by tina on August 9, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Very beautiful plant. Will you post a picture of the flower too? Would love to see it.


  7. Posted by Meadowview Thymes on August 9, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    It’s a very pretty plant. Have you seen the caterpillars yet, or will they come once it starts to bloom?


  8. Posted by Kathleen on August 9, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Interesting. This milkweed looks totally different than the one I’m familiar with but sounds like it serves the same purpose. I just saw something on TV recently that was saying species are toxic because of what they eat, not because they are born that way. Nature is always a marvel.


  9. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 9, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    You should get some Cindy, it has been an easy plant to grow so far & the bonus will be the Monarchs!

    I like the foliage too Nancy. It is very delicate & lacy.

    It has been very easy for me to grow Deb. No problems at all so far. It doesn't require any pampering & I haven't noticed any aphids bothering it yet. Thanks!

    I've seen Monarchs flitting over there from time to time NS and the little orange buds aren't buds. ( I will post on that soon)

    Thanks Mom, I've seen a lot more butterflies this year, but maybe I notice them more now that I blog. Hmmm…

    Tina, I promise to post pics of the flowers when it blooms.

    Actually Linda the caterpillars will form from eggs laid on the plant. Haven't seen any yet, but I have a feeling it could be soon… (more on that later)

    I think there are many varieties of milkweed Kathleen. While researching this info I found several types. That is a neat thing about nature.


  10. Posted by Susie on August 9, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Obviously the native is very different from the type butterfly weed I have. Love that foliage.


  11. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 9, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Butterfly Weed & Milk Weed are two different plants from the same species Susie. I have butterfly weed too. 🙂 Thanks, I like the foliage too. It is so delicate & fernlike.


  12. Posted by Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage on August 9, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    I’ve never seen this native before and now I’m so intrigued, I’m going to be on a quest to find it. 🙂



  13. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 9, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    I'm glad I could show you something new & intriquing Cindy! It is a pretty plant and I can't wait to see it flower.


  14. Posted by garden girl on August 10, 2008 at 1:53 am

    awesome post PG! Sounds like a must-have for our dry, shady/part sun garden! I’m always happy to plant natives attractive to butterflies and other beautiful and beneficial creatures.


  15. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 10, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Thanks GG! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am new to the native plant thing, but I’ve been adding them since last fall. I like that they are able to adapt to my climate and most of them are attractive to butterflies and bees.


  16. Posted by Rose on August 10, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Very interesting post, PG. This is a much more attractive species of milkweed than the kind I used to have to pull out of my Dad’s bean fields. I’ll be interested in seeing it in bloom.

    By the way, just read your Stella post and left you a comment–we are of like minds:)


  17. Posted by Meems on August 10, 2008 at 3:23 am

    There must be many varieties of milkweed. I planted mine (scarlet milkweed)at the back of the garden so the monarch caterpillars could chomp away and I wouldn't care that the leaves were gone.

    I like the foliage on your variety… you should soon see an increase in butterflies in your garden.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel


  18. Posted by Paula on August 10, 2008 at 5:06 am

    This is so interesting! I love Monarch Butterflies and how great that ingesting this plant makes them taste bad to predators. Love the name of the bad guy … Ambush Bug! I love posts like this!


  19. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 10, 2008 at 5:18 am

    Thanks Rose. I can’t wait to see the blooms on it too. I’ve seen other types of Milkweed and this one has pretty foliage.

    I didn’t even think about that Meems. It is squeezed between two Salvias so maybe that will help disguise their handywork. I hope the butterflies increase.

    I didn’t even realize that was the purpose of this plant being the host plant Paula. Yeah that “Ambush” bug is ironic. lol


  20. Posted by beckie on August 10, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    How interesting. I didn’t know there were several varieties of milkweed. Will have to look for some next year to draw more butterflies.


  21. Posted by Perennial Gardener on August 10, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I didn’t realize either until I started doing research on the plant Beckie. It seems to draw a variety of creatures as you will see in my next post.


  22. Posted by Darla on August 13, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Love the photos of your plants and flowers, wish I would have started this blog earlier in the season, ccould have gotten some great tips from you. You make feel free to visit my blog as well.


  23. Posted by Darla on August 13, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Sorry about the typo’s, have three children behind me playing video games since it’s raining outside.


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