Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Butterfly Larvae, Bees, Other Showy Insects
POISONOUS PARTS: Roots, plant sap from all parts. Not edible. Toxic only if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms. Toxic Principle: Resinoid, cardiac glycoside. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.) This species is deer resistant. (Evergreen)
Because of the taproot, milkweed needs to be transplanted carefully, does not like to be moved and requires good drainage. (Ontario Native Plants 2002) The plant does not like to be moved as it has a long taproot. However, the roots can be divided in early spring or fall, or started from seed. This species, unlike the others has clear sap rather than milky. It can also grow on rocky limestone. (Ladybird Johnson WildFlower Centre)
Garden Uses and Habitat Information: ""It thrives in dry sandy soil with good drainage. It can cope with moderately acidic conditions. It has a very long taproot, so transplant seedlings to a permanent place."" (Johnson, L., The new Ontario Naturalized Garden, 1999) The small flowers are in clusters, and like many other milkweeds look similar to orchids with waxy petals. This milkweed has very unique almost neon orange flowers.
Insect Relationships: Milkweed is the only larval food for the monarch butterfly, and this is one of only a few species of milkweed that occur in Ontario. Their nectar attracts many butterfly species including Grey Hairstreak, Monarch, and Queen. The following insects are attracted to this plant: small numbers of Empididae, Thomisidae, Chalcidoidea and Orius insidious, lygus bug, aphids, leafhoppers, froghoppers and root-maggot flies (Michigan State University). Bees attracted: Low numbers (less than 1 bee per meter square in a 30 second sample) of bees including sweat bees and bumble bees.
Traditional Aboriginal Uses: Read about traditional aboriginal medical and edible uses below, but they are NOT RECOMMENDED now. Milkweed can be toxic to animals and to people if eaten, and although the plant has been used for food, large quantities can cause diarrhea and vomiting. The root was chewed as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary afflictions, hence, Butterfly Weed was given its other common name, Pleurisy Root. Flowers, leaves, oil, root, seedpod have been thought edible. It has been used as a sweetener. Pods were eaten when young when seed floss (fluff inside of pod) has not formed yet. Flower clusters have been boiled to make a sweet syrup. The plant produces a lot of nectar, and hot weather can produce small sugar crystals on flowers which has been eaten like candy. CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN IN ALL THE ABOVE ACTIVITIES. The root is considered antispasmodic, carminative, mildly cathartic, diaphoretic, expectorant, tonic and vasodilator. Although never scientifically proven, it was used for diarrhea, dysentery, and rheumatism. It is not indicated for pregnant women. Roots were harvested and used dried or fresh. The powdered root was used to treat swelling, bruises, wounds, ulcers, lameness etc. Other Uses: In oceans the seed fluff is used to mop up spills. (Plants for a Future)
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