Story and photos by Janet Bowers, Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
At the beginning of my ‘Natives’ life, I learned a lot from working on the plant sale plant profiles, so I thought the only milkweeds in our area were Asclepias incarnata, A. tuberosa and A. perennis. Apparently those are the ones that nurseries have grown for a while. If I had known better, I might have checked out the USF Plant Atlas where I could have looked up genus Asclepias and would have seen that there are many more species in our area.
|Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, Lake Blue Scrub|
I have seen 9 milkweed species so far this year in relative proximity to our area, and I have now done the USF Plant Atlas search so I know there are more out there. An advance search in Hillsborough County lists twelve species.Oddly enough (at least to me), two of the species I have never seen in the wild are the swamp milkweeds that we sell at our plant sale. They are at the top of my list to find.
|Fewflower Milkweed, Asclepias lanceolata, Hillsborough River State Park|
My favorite milkweed, A. longifolia, I first saw in the Green Swamp, and I got to revisit it on our way home from Cayo Costa in April. We stopped to see a mass of bladderworts and Devon saw the milkweed. I was tired, dirty and cranky, but that milkweed made me very happy. I have noticed that some of the paler milkweeds are easy to miss if you’re not looking closely. The others I have seen this year include - A. humistrata that has the gorgeous pink veined leaves, A. pedicellata , A. feayi (quite a few on our May fieldtrip to Triple Creek Preserve), A. verticillata and A. amplexicaulis (in Hernando county). Last year I saw A. tomentosa.
|Savannah Milkweed, Asclepias pedicellata, Blackwater Creek Preserve|
|Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, Sweetbay Nursery|