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.

7 comments:

  1. I'm researching Florida native milkweeds to write an article for our Master Gardener newsletter, so your blog is a very nice source.

    If you ever grow some of the harder-to-find milkweeds, please email me at annie.grewe@gmail.com.

    ReplyDelete
  2. do you know anywhere that i can get seeds for these few native florida milkweed?

    ReplyDelete
  3. No. Wish I did, but no one I know in FL ever has seed for sale.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chris Parisi at restlessnatives@tampabay.rr.com sells them on ebay under Florida ecotype Milkweed, 813-716-2348

      Delete
  4. Does regular milkweed thrive in Florida? The kind that monarch butterflies love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Becky- there is no "regular" milkweed in that no matter where you live there's going to be multiple species in your area. Monarchs use nearly all plants in the milkweed family - Asclepias species as well as others that are closely related. For the area you live in, find out which milkweed family species are native - those are the ones that monarchs in your area would be most apt to use first. And, although butterfly milkweed, A. tuberosa, is a good nectar source, it is rarely used as a larval plant. Hope this helps.

      Delete
  5. Go to this link: http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/
    Input the word Asclepias. When you get the results you can click on the underlined scientific name for each species and see a map of Florida telling you in what counties that particular species has been found. Not that it's easy to get seeds commercially for all of these species. I have found A. incarnata, A. perennis, A. tuberosa, A. verticillata and A. viridis. Despite the fact that it will grow year round, A. curassavica is not recommended for Florida if you are really interested in increasing the population of Monarch butterflies. Scientitsts believe its ability to bloom year round will retard the Monarchs'interest in migrating, and the species is also a carrier of OE, a single-celled organism which is bad for the monarchs. SEE: http://butterflyfarms.org/monarch-predators-parasites-and-diseases/

    I have gotten seeds from Chris Parisi (noted above) and have been satisfied with his products.

    ReplyDelete

Please let me know if this site and the various postings have been useful to you.