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Most people are used to seeing the bright orange flowers of the, non-native, scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) and don’t realize that Florida is home to twenty one native milkweeds.  Our native species are all around us in our natural areas, but due to their diminutive size most go unnoticed.  Next time you are out for a hike keep an eye out for some of these native plants. Most milkweeds are easy to grow, provide larval food for monarch, queen, and soldier, butterflies, and are a source of nectar and pollen for a great many insects, including butterflies.  To insure pollination, milkweed flowers have developed a unique mechanism in their structure. They put insects to work during their visits for nectar by creating a flower structure that catches the visitor’s feet in a crevice between the horns and the crown.  The insect struggles to loosen the flower’s grip and in turn carries away a pair of pollinia (waxy pollen grains).  The pollinia look like tiny saddle bags dangling from the insect’s feet.  These are deposited to the stigmatic chamber of the next flower that is visited.  Be sure to check out the amazing photos at A Close-up View of the Unusual Wildflower "Common Milkweed". Growing milkweeds that are native to your region make gardening life much easier by drastically reducing garden maintenance.  Rather than improving your soil, or installing sprinklers, think of matching the plant to the environment.  If an area of your property has dry, sandy, soil you can grow Asclepias humistrata or another dry site milkweed. Areas that are moist and soggy will support Asclepias incarnata or another swamp milkweed.  Think in those terms and you can spend more time enjoying the garden, and its visitors, and less time working on it.

Asclepias amplexicaulis   (Clasping Milkweed)

Habitat: dry, open woods and clearings Leaves: opposite, clasping, elliptic to ovate in shape with crisped margins Flower Color: dull purple Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV

Asclepias cinerea   (Carolina milkweed)

Habitat: pine flatwoods Leaves: opposite, sessile, linear and filaform with entire margins Flower Color: light maroon and white Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, FL, GA, MS, SC

Asclepias connivens   (Largeflower milkweed)

Habitat: moist pinelands and bogs Leaves: opposite, sessile, oblong with entire margins Flower Color: pale green Flower Season: summer Native States: AL, FL, GA, MS, SC

Asclepias curtissii

(Curtiss' milkweed)

Habitat: scrub & sandhill Leaves: opposite and elliptic to ovate with short stalks Flower Color: white & greenish Flower Season: spring, summer, & fall Native States: Endemic & endangered in Florida

Asclepias feayi

(Florida milkweed)

Habitat: pinelands Leaves: opposite & linear Flower Color: white with maroon centers and tinting - lacking horns Flower Season: spring, summer & fall Native States: Endemic to Florida

Asclepias humistrata   (Pinewoods milkweed)

Habitat: pinelands, scrub and dry sites Leaves: opposite, broad, ovate, auriculate & clasping at base Flower Color: pale pink Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC

Asclepias incarnata

(Swamp milkweed)

Habitat: swamps and wet woods Leaves: opposite, narrowly oblong to linear-lanceolate & stalked Flower color: pale pink Flower Season: summer Native States: AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC

Asclepias lanceolata

(Few-flower milkweed)

Habitat: swamps & wet meadows Leaves: opposite, few in number, linear to lanceolate & stalked Flower Color: reddish orange Flower Season: summer Native States: AL, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, SC, TN, TX, VA

Asclepias longifolia

(Longleaf milkweed)

Habitat: wet meadows & flatwoods Leaves: opposite, linear to narrowly lanceolate, & sessile Flower Color: green and light maroon Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, SC, TX, VA, WV  

Asclepias michauxii

(Michaux’s milkweed)

Habitat: moist woods Leaves: opposite to sub-opposite & linear Flower Color: greenish purple Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, SC

Asclepias obovata

(Pineland milkweed)

Habitat: sandy pinelands Leaves: opposite, oblong to ovate, sessile Flower Color: yellowish-green Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, OK, SC, TX

Asclepias pedicellata

(Savannah milkweed)

Habitat: wet pinelands Leaves: opposite, linear and sessile - may be whorled Flower Color: yellow Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: FL, GA, NC, SC

Asclepias perennis

(Swamp milkweed)

Habitat: wet woods and swamps Leaves: opposite, elliptic to lanceolate and stalked Flower Color: white Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, SC, TN, TX

Asclepias rubra

(Red milkweed)

Habitat: bogs & savannahs Leaves: opposite, lanceolate and sessile Flower Color: pale to medium magenta Flower Season: summer & fall Native States: AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, NY, PA, SC, TX, VA

Asclepias tomentosa

(Velvet leaf milkweed)

Habitat: dry pinelands Leaves: opposite, elliptic to oval, soft and downy - mostly sessile Flower Color: greenish white Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, FL, GA, NC, SC, TX

Asclepias tuberosa

(Butterfly milkweed)

Habitat: pinelands and sandhill Leaves: alternate, elliptic to oblanceolate and sessile - clear sap Flower Color: orange Flower Season: summer & fall Native States:   AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, NY, PA, SC, TX, VA

Asclepias variegata

(Redring milkweed)

Habitat: thickets & open woods Leaves: opposite, elliptic to oval Flower Color: white Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV

Asclepias verticillata

(Whorled milkweed)

Habitat: pinelands  and disturbed sites Leaves: linear to lanceolate, occurring in whorls Flower Color: pale greenish-white Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, AZ, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV, WY

Asclepias viridiflora

(Green milkweed)

Habitat: dry pinelands Leaves: opposite & oval Flower Color: pale green Flower Season: summer & fall Native States: AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV, WY Notes: Endangered in Florida

Asclepias viridis

(Green antelopehorn)

Habitat: pinelands Leaves: alternate, ovate to lanceolate-oblong and short stalked Flower Color: green with maroon & white hoods Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NE, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, WV Asclepias viridula (Southern milkweed) Habitat: moist pinelands Leaves: opposite & linear - scantily leaved Flower Color: greenish - pale green Flower Season: spring & summer Native States: AL, FL, GA Notes: Threatened in Florida Thank you to Jeff Pippen (Jeff’s Nature Home Page) Susan & John Brandaur (Weeds for Wildlife) and Kim Davis and Mike Stangeland (Kim and Mike on the Road). To achieve a positive ID on a milkweed you are unsure of consult The Guide to Vascular Plants of Florida by Richard P. Wunderlin for an identification key.

Milkweeds Native to Florida

Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias connivens (Largeflower Milkweed)
Karan A. Rawlins University of Georgia
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias curtissii (Curtiss’ Milkweed)
Bob Peterson
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias feayi (Florida Milkweed)
Bob Peterson
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
Rebekah D. Wallace University of Georgia
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias lanceolata (Fewflower Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias pedicellata (Savannah Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias perennis (Swamp Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias tomentosa (Velvetleaf Milkweed)
Jason Sharp
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias rubra (Red Milkweed)
John Brandauer www.weedsforwildlife.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed)
John Brandauer www.weedsforwildlife.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias variegata (Redring Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias viridiflora (Green Milkweed)
Jim Pisarowicz
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias viridis (Green Antelopehorn)
John D. Byrd Miss. State University
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias obovata (Pineland Milkweed)
Kim Davis & Mike Stangeland www.kimandmikeontheroad.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias michauxii (Michaux’s Milkweed)
Kim Davis & Mike Stangeland www.kimandmikeontheroad.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias humistrata (Pinewoods Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias longifolia (Longleaf Milkweed)
Jeffrey Pippen www.jeffpippen.com
Asclepias cinerea (Carolina Milkweed)
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