For Your Garden - December 2012
Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.
milkweed pod and seeds (Asclepias sp.)
Photo © Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Nearly 20 species of milkweeds grow in Illinois. They can be found in prairie and woodland habitats as well as in wetlands. Flowering occurs from late spring through summer. Although there are many flowers in a cluster, usually only a few of them are pollinated. The pollinated flowers develop into large pods that contain seeds attached to silky plumes. Monarch butterfly larvae are one of the few organisms that are able to eat milkweed leaves. Many insect species are attracted to the flowers, however.
Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.