Monarch larvae appear to feed exclusively on milkweeds in the genus Asclepias and several other genera of viny milkweeds in North America. Milkweeds are perennial plants, which means an individual plant lives for more than one year, growing each spring from rootstock and seeds rather than seeds alone. In the Midwest, milkweeds were historically common and widespread on prairies, but habitat destruction has reduced their range and numbers.
Milkweeds belong to the family Asclepiadaceae, derived from Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Though most members of the genus Asclepias are tropical, there are approximately 110 species in North America known for their milky sap or latex contained in the leaves. Most species are toxic to vertebrate herbivores if ingested due to the cardenolide alkaloids contained in the leaves and stems. When Monarch larvae ingest milkweed, they also ingest the plants’ toxins, called cardiac glycosides. They sequester these compounds in their wings and exoskeletons, making the larvae and adults toxic to many potential predators. Vertebrate predators may avoid Monarchs because they learn that the larvae and adults taste bad and/or make them vomit. There is considerable variation in the amount of toxins in different species of plants. Some northern species of milkweed contain almost no toxins while others seem to contain so much of the toxins that they are lethal even to monarch caterpillars.

Asclepias curassavica – ‘Monarch Promise’ Tropical Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica – ‘Monarch Promise’ Tropical Milkweed

Monarch Promise is a special Asclepias curassavica with beautiful green and white variegated foliage that is tinged with red, orange and pink leaf tips. The bright orange-red flower attracts Monarch butterflies and many other species of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Monarch Promise is great to use in the landscape or in container gardens to bring life to your patio, not only for its amazing color but to attract butterflies. It is a tropical milkweed, so it grows best in warmer temperatures.

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Asclepias curassavica – Tropical Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica – Tropical Milkweed

Tropical Milkweed, also known as Blood flower, is a tender evergreen perennial in the dogbane and milkweed family. It is native to South America, but has naturalized worldwide in many tropical and subtropical areas. It has a much longer flowering period than the perennial milkweeds that are winter hardy in Michigan. Showy red-orange flowers bloom late spring through late autumn except in USDA Zones 9-11 where it is winter hardy. Grows best in light, rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Will tolerate light shade and some soil dryness.  Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers. Monarch butterflies lay eggs on this plant and the resulting larvae (caterpillars) use the plant leaves as a food source. Flowers are followed by long, narrow seed pods (3-4” long) which split open when ripe releasing silky tailed seeds for dispersal by wind. Stems and leaves exude a milky sap when cut or bruised. Plants can be poisonous to livestock. Consider wearing gloves when working with these plants because the milky sap is poisonous if ingested and can be toxic to human skin.

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Asclepias exaltata – Poke Milkweed
Asclepias exaltata – Poke Milkweed

Poke Milkweed is native to Michigan and can also be found throughout the eastern portion of the United States and Canada. It is most often found at the edges of forests and upland woods and is one of the few milkweeds that prosper in shaded conditions. Tall and elegant with drooping flowers that are white with pink accents and extremely fragrant, this milkweed is a popular nectar source in addition to being a host plant for the Monarch butterfly. This is a non-aggressive milkweed and once established, plants are known to survive for decades.

Available –  May 2017

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Asclepias hirtella – Tall Green Milkweed
Asclepias hirtella – Tall Green Milkweed

Asclepias hirtella Tall Green Milkweed is a Michigan native although it is considered threatened in the state. Tall Green Milkweed is found throughout the Tallgrass Prairie region in open areas, usually in prairies or remnants of prairies and throughout the midwest. Though not as well known as other varieties of milkweed, Tall Green Milkweed distinguishes itself with abundant clusters of green-white flowers that attract many butterflies and bees.

Other Common Names in use include Green Milkweed.

Available May 2017

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Asclepias incarnata – ‘Cinderella’ Milkweed
Asclepias incarnata – ‘Cinderella’ Milkweed

‘Cinderella’ is a cultivar of native Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) featuring pale pink, vanilla scented flower clusters. This milkweed occurs throughout most of the United States. It is a tall plant found in moist habitats such as wet meadows, floodplains, riverbanks, pond shores, stream banks, wet woods, swamps, and marshes, although it will also grow in drier areas such as prairies, fields, and roadsides. Swamp milkweed needs full sun or partial shade to flourish. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees as a nectar source. Swamp milkweed is also an important food source for the larval stage of Monarch butterflies.The plants are deer resistant and heat tolerant.

Available –  May 2017
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Asclepias incarnata – ‘Ice Ballet’ Milkweed
Asclepias incarnata – ‘Ice Ballet’ Milkweed

‘Ice Ballet’ is an elegant, long-blooming, bright white cultivar of native Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) and features a compact habit and dark green foliage. Swamp milkweed occurs throughout most of the United States. It is a tall plant found in moist habitats such as wet meadows, floodplains, riverbanks, pond shores, stream banks, wet woods, swamps, and marshes, although it will also grow in drier areas such as prairies, fields, and roadsides. Asclepias incarnata needs full sun or partial shade to flourish. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees as a nectar source. Swamp milkweed is also an important food source for the larval stage of Monarch butterflies. The plants are deer resistant and heat tolerant.

Available – May 2017

 

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Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed occurs throughout most of the United States. It is a tall plant found in moist habitats such as wet meadows, floodplains, riverbanks, pond shores, stream banks, wet woods, swamps, and marshes, although it will also grow in drier areas such as prairies, fields, and roadsides. Swamp milkweed needs full sun or partial shade to flourish. Flowers are fragrant and very attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees as a nectar source. Swamp milkweed is also an important food source for the larval stage of Monarch butterflies. The plants are deer resistant and heat tolerant. Also known as Rose Milkweed, Red Milkweed, and Marsh Milkweed.

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Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed – 1 gallon pot
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed – 1 gallon pot

Host Plant – Monarch

Red Milkweed attracts butterflies of all kinds and the leaves are a preferred food source for the Monarch Caterpillar.Asclepias incarnata thrives along ponds, streams and detention basins. It preferes moist soil but also does wel in average, well-drained garden sites. Full sun is best and some light shade is tolerated. No butterfly garden is complete without Red Milkweed, also known as Swamp Milkweed or Marsh Milkweed.

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Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed – 4″ pot
Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed – 4″ pot

Host Plant – Monarch

Asclepias incarnata Swamp Milkweed occurs throughout most of the United States. It is a tall plant found in moist habitats such as wet meadows, floodplains, riverbanks, pond shores, stream banks, wet woods, swamps, and marshes, although it will also grow in drier areas such as prairies, fields, and roadsides. Swamp milkweed needs full sun or partial shade to flourish. Flowers are fragrant and very attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees as a nectar source. Swamp milkweed is also an important food source for the larval stage of Monarch butterflies. The plants are deer resistant and heat tolerant. Also known as Rose Milkweed, Red Milkweed, and Marsh Milkweed.

Available – May 2017

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Asclepias perennis – Aquatic Milkweed
Asclepias perennis – Aquatic Milkweed

Aquatic Milkweed is a petite white milkweed suitable for wet soils. It survives in water and will grow in light-sandy and medium-loamy soils. Native to stream sides it is generally most common in lightly shaded woodlands near streams. This little milkweed is a great performer, being shade tolerant and flowering spring through autumn.

Available to ship mid-late June.

 

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Asclepias physocarpa Hairy Balls Milkweed
Asclepias physocarpa Hairy Balls Milkweed

Asclepias physocarpa (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) is a unique milkweed and favorite with Monarch Butterflies as a milkweed host. It is grown as an annual throughout the United States except in USDA Zones 8-10. This milkweed is commonly known as Hairy Balls,

Swan plant, Balloon plant, Oscar milkweed, and Family Jewels. Native to South Africa, Asclepias physocarpa has become a favorite with American gardeners in butterfly gardens.

All of our plants are grown without the use of harmful pesticides and are safe for developing larvae.

Grown in 4.5” square pot.

Available Mid-May 2017

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Asclepias purpurascens Purple Milkweed
Asclepias purpurascens – Purple Milkweed

DISTRIBUTION

USA:  AR,  CT,  DC,  DE,  GA,  IA,  IL,  IN,  KS,  KY,  LA,  MA,  MD,  MI,  MN,  MO,  MS,  NC,  NE,  NH,  NJ,  NY,  OH,  OK,  PA,  RI,  SD,  TN,  TX,  VA,  WI,  WV

Asclepias purpurascens – Purple Milkweed is a Michigan native milkweed and is native to most of the eastern United States though it is uncommon to rare in cultivated gardens. Similar to Ascelpeias syriaca (Common Milkweed) it is an excellent garden choice due to its non-invasive nature. It has a long bloom season and the fragrant, intense rosy pink flowers attract numerous insects and butterflies. Purple Milkweed is very tolerant of a wide variety of soils and light levels making it easy to grow.  It will tolerate shade, but blooms better in the sun. It commonly occurs in dry to moist open woods, dry ridge tops, thickets, glades, prairie openings, stream banks and wet meadows.

All of our plants are grown without the use of harmful pesticides and are safe for developing larvae.

Grown in 4.5″ square pot.

Available mid-late June 2017

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