Where the Wild Things Are- Magic of Milkweed

If you walk anywhere in the village these days, where milkweed happens to bloom, you will notice the beautiful fragrance. The common milkweed, besides being a host plant for Monarch butterflies, is one of the most varied of the species. It can have blooms from dark magenta to white. It can be a foot tall or 4 feet tall. If you stop to stare at the blossoms for long, you will see a multitude of amazing creatures, gathering nectar and eating or laying eggs on it's broad leaves. Common milkweed is not the only of it's family to reside in the village lands. In the wetter areas, also blooming now, is the swamp milkweed. Tall enough to rise above the grasses and reeds, you will see it's red purple flowers waving. If you get close enough you will see that the leaves are much thinner and pointed.

Other family member include the dogbane family. There are two of them on the land. Spreading Dogbane is in bloom in some of the south pastures, and along the field road you will see Indian hemp. Tiny white blossoms on the tops of the stalks, the smaller version of the rounded leaves of the common milkweed climbing tightly upward. 

The most exciting thing of my weekly walks was the discovery of a fifth member of the milkweed family. Whorled Milkweed! I didn't even suspect it of being a milkweed when I first spotted it. I dutifully photographed it, noting it's location. When I was at home I realized what it was. This is the first time I have seen this plant. And it is not previously recorded in Todd County, so I went back and collected a sample to submit to the Bell Museum Herbarium! That is two species in two weeks to add to the science of the world! The whorled milkweed has the same flower type as the common and swamp, but much smaller and white. The leaves are thin grass like blades that whorl around the stem in sets of 6. If you wanted to see them, walk out on the field road south of farmhouse, go east of the pine trees and follow them to where the lane opens up to the pastures at the south end. There, on the ground by the pine trees is a healthy population. 

 Whorled Milkweed

Whorled Milkweed

 Common milkweed showing the white and purple varieties growing side by side.

Common milkweed showing the white and purple varieties growing side by side.