Sunday, February 7, 2010
Purple Milkweed - Asclepias humistrata
Purple milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) is native to the northern two-thirds of Florida and resident to habitats with excessively well-drained sands and full sun. It is a multi-stemmed deciduous perennial which dies back each fall and emerges in the early spring. Purple milkweed is a robust, but sprawling plant which sends its stems in all directions across the ground. At maturity, these stems may be more than two feet long. Its common name comes from the color of its large arrow-shaped leaves. They are a purplish green with pink-purple veins throughout. Purple milkweed blooms in early summer at the ends of each stem. The flowers themselves are a dull pinkish white and they occur in large rounded heads which are held about one foot off the ground. Purple milkweed is not the most beautiful of our native milkweeds, but its variegated foliage and large flower masses make it an interesting addition to a large planting area. Do not attempt it in small spaces as it will overwhelm them. This is a difficult species to maintain in containers and the landscape. It will rot quickly if planted in soils that stay too moist, but if you have excessively well-drained sands in a sunny location and a bit of space, purple milkweed provides a great many benefits to a mixed wildflower planting.