Thursday, February 25, 2010
Curtiss' Milkweed - Asclepias curtissii
Curtiss' milkweed is an extremely rare endemic species, listed as endangered by the state and confined to deep excessively well-drained sandy habitats in the peninsula. Although widespread throughout the peninsula, its populations are widely scattered and localized. It occurs only in excessively well drained sands with lots of sunlight.
This deciduous species eventually becomes quite long and lanky. The thick main stems may reach 2-4 feet long, but they often lean over and this makes them seem shorter. The leaves are deep green and oval in shape, usually with a noticeable undulating margin.
Flowering occurs in the summer. The few flower heads (umbels) are confined to the ends of the main stalk and consist of 20-30 individual flower buds. These open to become clear white in color.
Although Curtiss' milkweed would make an excellent addition to a butterfly garden, given its abundant foliage and large stature, I am not aware of anyone ever propagating it. Perhaps this will change someday given the increased interest in native plants and butterfly gardening. Until then, we can only hope that the wild populations will be protected sufficiently to maintain this interesting and truly Florida species in our flora.