Thursday, February 25, 2010
Florida Milkweed - Asclepias feayi
Florida or feay's milkweed (Asclepias feayi) is a small, but rather distinctive member of this genus. It is endemic to Florida and found only within the southern half of the state. It is native to well-drained upland habitats; especially xeric flatwoods and sandhills with high levels of sunlight.
Florida milkweed is a perennial which dies back to the ground each winter. It emerges in the early spring, but often goes unnoticed until it blooms in mid-summer because of its small stature and thin foliage. At maturity, Florida milkweed rarely stands taller than about 2 feet. Its thin leaves are several inches long and mostly opposite each other on the stem.
Blooming occurs during the summer. Like the fewflowered milkweed (A. lanceolata), the flower heads are few and confined mostly to the top of the main stem. Each contains less than 10 white flowers with a bit of purple near the center. Unlike most milkweed flowers, the petals are not strongly recurved, but point outward - giving each a star-like quality.
Because of its small stature, Florida milkweed is not the first choice for butterfly gardening enthusiasts. The caterpillars would quickly devour it; especially if there was not sufficient quantity around. Its somewhat subdued flowers are also not likely to put it in great demand, but despite all of this, it is a very interesting species and well worth adding to a mixed wildflower planting. Like many of Florida's upland species, it requires good drainage and plenty of sun to thrive. Place it in small clusters near the front of the garden and mix it with other species, small in stature.
I am not aware of anyone that has ever grown this species commercially and we have not had the good fortune to find seed at the right time yet. But, we continue to hope... If you are interested, let us know and we will increase our effort.