Saturday, November 24, 2012

White Vine - Sarcostemma clausum

White vine (Sarcostemma clausum) is found only in the southern third of the Florida peninsula and in Texas.  It is a vining member of the milkweed family and tends to occur in moist hammock edges and near the edge of open wetlands.  It is evergreen, but subject to freeze damage if temperature reach below 32 degrees F, and may bloom at most months of the year if not interrupted by extreme cold.
White vine is an aggressive rambler and will ultimately grow many feet in every direction.  Its succulent elliptical leaves are opposite each other on the stout stems and exude a milky sap, like most milkweeds, if injured.  This foliage serves well as food for milkweed butterfly caterpillars and I have seen monarchs, queens and soldiers feeding on them at various times.
The flowers are typical of the family, though the petals do not curve backwards to the extent most milkweeds in the genus Asclepias do. They are produced in large clusters along the stems and are white in color. Pollinated flowers produce the typical ear-shaped follicle that eventually splits open - sending the fuzzy-winged seeds airborne to new locations.
White vine is a good larval food plant for milkweed butterflies, but extremely difficult to control in the landscape.  For this reason, it is rarely offered for sale commercially and is a poor choice for most landscapes except those with lots of space and/or on a stout trellis with moist soil conditions. 


  1. How does this milkweed manage to take over things if they keep eating it? My caterpillars think I am made of milkweed.

    I thought I was doing great when I saw 10. Then I saw 10 caterpillars again during what I thought would be milkweed grow back time. I bought more milkweed. I saw 10 again. Then I had three Monarchs in one day fluttering about my garden. I saw 2 Monarchs cavorting about and playing tag in the sky. Beautiful creatures. I bought more Milkweed -- it came with hitchhikers. Cool beans. I bought two more milkweeds and two Giant Milkweeds. They came with hitchhikers. More cool beans.
    I saw 9 caterpillars hanging out together for a few brief moments on an eaten stalk. My guess, they were taking the party to the milkweed stalk with leaves next door. I currently have about 30 - 40 caterpillars happily munching away thinking I am made out of milkweed. I'm hoping the Giant milkweed can pick up any necessary slack. I planted milkweed cuttings in 6 pots today.
    I have five pupa in sight just a few days away from maturity. I am looking forward to having near 40 pupa hanging out in my yard. It's exciting.
    I have only been doing this for about six months and have been quite successful. I am on the look out for Monarch parasites but so far so good. My guys are making it. I don't see everybody. My garden is along a privacy fence that divides my yard from my neighbors. Great protection from the wind. Also a great pupa hangout. But walkabout caterpillars do wander off out of sight to the other side regularly.
    Oh yes, I ordered some Antelope milkweed and some PInewoods milkweed. But those will be seeds. They'll need time as do my cuttings.

    I'd like to have a nice variety of Milkweed but I am not overly fond of vines. I see various varieties take over trees. Will these do that? How does White Vine Milkweed take over? The only way I'm thinking is if the little buggers eat it down to the stalk and I just have green string hanging everywhere? Could I grow it in a hanging basket or hanging pot on the fence?

    1. I believe that the main defense of most milkweeds is that, once eaten to the ground, the other caterpillars starve and the plant then regrows. As butterfly folks, we want to see every caterpillar survive, but from the plant's perspective, they would prefer it the other way. Many native milkweeds are too small to support a caterpillar all the way to the pupa stage and do not form extensive colonies. When their populations are greater, the caterpillars can find a second plant once they've eaten the first, but in leaner years the caterpillars starve, leading to fewer butterflies, leading to a future where the plants may actually bloom and set seed - their ultimate goal. Most milkweeds I've grown come back pretty quick once eaten to the ground, but decline if eaten to the ground successively over time. There has to be a balance for both the milkweed butterfly and the milkweed to prosper over time.

    2. i live in florida & love monarchs. I have found that when I am running out of milkweed, they love to eat slices of butternut squash that I attach to the stalk with clothes pins. I sometimes bring them into my butterfly mesh houses to be sure they are getting enough food, and when they eat the squash the poop is yellow/orange....hysterical !!


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