• ljmarkson

Native Aquatic Milkweed Is a Pretty and Petite Monarch Host Plant for Damp Areas

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

My September native plant pick #5 is white swamp milkweed or aquatic milkweed (asclepias perennis), one of many native milkweeds in Georgia that is a host plant for the beloved monarch butterfly

This pretty monarch visited my yard back in August but I didn't see any caterpillars on any of the milkweed plants after it left.

I rarely see migrating monarchs either in the spring or fall in my rewilded Atlanta yard, despite growing multiple milkweed varieties. I’m not sure if it is because monarchs need to pass through all the tidy and toxic yards in my neighborhood to even find mine. Every year my yard has more plants for monarchs, so I haven't given up hope of seeing more than a passing one or two each year.

I have a buffet of milkweed in my yard for visiting monarch including orange butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), and pink swamp milkweed (Asclepia incarnata). I don't see many monarchs, but plenty of pollinators seem to enjoy it!

I think the aquatic milkweed is still a valuable plant to have in my yard because I see multiple insects on the flowers including bees, wasps, ants, flies, and butterflies. Various milkweed beetles and aphids eat the plant.

Large milkweed bugs are one of many insects found on aquatic milkweed.

Aquatic milkweed is a pretty, petite 1- to 2-foot-tall plant with white flowers with pink spots on the unopened flowers. It blooms from early summer through September. I still have a few flowers left on mine.

This is the last aquatic milkweed flower left blooming in my yard right now. No more flowers until next May!

It thrives in sunny moist, damp areas such as floodplains, marshes, swamps, ditches and wetlands. The native range is in Georgia, but it is most common in the coastal plain of Georgia. It is easy to grow if it gets consistent moisture and some sun. I have a patch thriving in a damp slightly shady area of my yard, and in a partially sunny area where the A/C condensation drains. I’ve also been able to easily winter sow the seeds to add even more milkweed plants to my yard.

This patch of aquatic milkweed grows well in a damp area with native wild strawberries (Fragaria virginiana), sallow sedge (Carex lurida), and blue mist flower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Friday Fact: Milkweeds are named after Asclepias who was the Greek god of medicine because although toxic, many milkweeds were once used medicinally. Perennis means perennial.