Posts tagged ‘Asclepias syriaca’

July 2, 2013

Milkweed is Important Monarch Butterfly Food


Milkweed is not a weed, it is important butterfly food. The Monarch butterfly population decline is directly related to environmental degradation, destruction of their habitat and the use of pesticides from Monsanto. The use of glyphosate developed by Monsanto in the U.S. for products like Round-up, which is the number one selling herbicide in America, are a threat to important pollinators and plants.

Read the full story here-

Monarch butterflies cannot complete their life cycle without the milkweed family. These plants are important because it is the only food source of the monarch butterfly larvae.
The female lays her eggs on the plant and the young caterpillar eats it as food. Then it turns into a butterfly to then feast on the milkweeds nectar. Eating the milkweed as its only food source, it absorbs the acidic bitter constituents from the plant and that is what deters predators from eating it.

Common milkweed has the Latin name Asclepias syriaca and is the most common milkweed, although it is not invasive, it grows in colonies like goldenrod. Milkweeds are becoming less common in some areas in North America, and that’s the reason for the declining monarch population.


Maybe it is considered a weed because of the name, but it is very pleasant smelling and the flowers are very beautiful. It blooms June to August in umbrella like clusters, with up curved horn purple petals below a crown of hoods. It releases silky parachute seeds from pods after it flowers.

It is native to North America, even though the Latin species syriaca name of the common variety suggests it is from Syria. It is common there and in Southern Europe, but it was actually brought there from North America. It is native from Quebec to Saskatchewan south into The United States.

The common name Milkweed is named so because it has a thick milky white sap that has bitter chemicals that protect it from predators. The sap and root are potentially toxic, having cardioactive compounds that influence the heart, so avoid internal use of fresh sap.

There are other Asclepias species of milkweed- butterfly weed milkweed, swamp milkweed, poke milkweed and all are important nectaring and nesting sites for the monarch butterfly. It is important to build butterfly friendly areas for monarch butterflies and other important pollinators on their flight path, and stop the use of pesticides and insecticides from Monsanto to ensure a rebound in population numbers.



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