Native Plant Corner hopes you have the opportunity this month to stand at the edge of a milkweed patch and be mesmerized by the bewildering array of bees, wasps, flies, ants, tiny crab spiders, beetles, day-flying moths and colorful butterflies who have either taken up residence or are nectaring in one of the species of milkweed we enjoy in mid-coast Maine. Attracted by the exceptionally sweet nectar, pollinators are drawn to milkweed blooms by day and night. And, of course, among these are monarch butterflies. The iconic monarch butterfly has a co-evolutionary relationship with native milkweed and is totally dependent on milkweed for its reproduction.
To learn more about the extraordinary life cycle of the monarch, the uniqueness of milkweeds and the imperative importance of native plants please come to an upcoming talk by the incomparable, humorous and charismatic Dr. Doug Tallamy, on August 20 at 7pm at the Ocean View Grange in Martinsville. —Jan Getgood
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a Maine native perennial which occurs in fields, meadows, and along roadsides. It typically grows in full sun to 3-6’ tall on stout, upright stems with large, thick, broad, leaves. Drooping clusters of fragrant, purplish-pink flowers appear over a long bloom period in July and August. Common milkweed grows easily from seed, and spreads by underground stolons (runners) which may prove challenging in a more formal garden. Consider planting in a corner of your landscape where you can enjoy its spread and bounty. Shown here with Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is an upright, clump forming Maine native milkweed which, in spite of its name, adapts and thrives in a wide range of garden soils in sun to part sun. Swamp milkweed grows to 3-4’ tall and its tidy, showy habit makes it a lovely addition to your pollinator garden and an important host for monarch butterfly larvae.
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is no longer common in the wild in Maine. It is a clump forming, low growing member of the milkweed family with bright orange blooms in July and August. Attractive to many pollinating insects and a host for the monarch, it grows 12–18 inches tall in full sun to part shade in dry, sandy soil. Butterflyweed is a beautiful addition to the garden, forms a deep taproot at maturity and is sometimes finicky about establishing in the garden. Shown with Monarch caterpillar.
PHOTOS: Jan Getgood