Pinewoods milkweed, submitted by Eleanor Dietrich, Florida Wildflower Foundation
In our region, this is the largest milkweed with the biggest leaves. It begins to bloom in April and is an excellent food source for the returning Monarchs to lay their eggs on. The botanical name is Asclepias humistrata, and humistrata means sprawling, which is what the long stems do. The leaves are very distinctive looking – a dull green with conspicuous pink to lavender veins. The top part of the flower, called the hood, is whitish in color but the recurved petals are a brownish pink. These plants grow in sandy soil and have a very deep taproot; a plant can grow for many years. The pollinated flowers develop large purple seed pods (follicles) that burst open upon maturity, revealing seeds with light tufts on them that can be easily spread by the wind. These large plants can often be seen on sandy roadsides. There are many of them blooming along state road 20 now, in Liberty and Leon counties, and maybe in your county as well – keep an eye out for them. Monarch caterpillars are now feeding on them.