Swamp Milkweed

Common Name: Swamp Milkweed.

Scientific Name: Asclepias Incarnata.

What to look for?  Inviting clusters of tiny, pink flowers sitting atop what appears to be a milkweed! The Swamp Milkweed has a green, central stem that branches into ascending lateral stems. Clusters of pink flowers appear at the tops of these stems in late-summer. The flowers have a pleasant cinnamon-like fragrance. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by long, oblong seedpods that turn brown upon maturity. Each seedpod splits open along one side to release its silky-haired seeds with its fuzzy parachute, which are distributed by the wind during the fall. The root system is rhizomatous, from which clonal colonies of plants occasionally develop.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Swamp Milkweed plants pop up in the meadow areas around Carillon Stonegate Pond, at Stonegate Park and around open meadows on outskirts of Arlene Shoemaker forest preserve.

How big are they? The Swamp Milkweed is generally from two (2) to four (4) feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately six (6) inches long and less than two (2) inches across. An umbel or cluster that holds dozens of tiny flowers is approximately three (3) inches across. Each pink flower is only ¼ of an inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The native Swamp Milkweed occurs across most areas of Illinois. Across the U.S., this plant is found in most states, except the west coast. The Swamp Milkweed is found in floodplain forests, swamps, thickets, wet meadows, moist prairies, low areas along rivers and ponds, and marshes. It disappears as habitats dry out.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Swamp Milkweed occurs during late summer and lasts about a month. The flowers exude a cinnamon-like fragrance.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flowers of the Swamp Milkweed attract many kinds of insects, including bumblebees, honeybees, a variety of other bees and wasps, Swallowtail butterflies, Monarch butterflies, and skippers. Another visitor seeking its nectar is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Some insect feeders include caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly, and Large Milkweed Bug. Because of its high toxicity, animals usually avoid the foliage of Swamp Milkweed as a food source.

Interesting Facts About the Swamp Milkweed:

  • Genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios the god of medicine.

  • Specific epithet comes from the Latin word Incarnata meaning flesh-colored or flushed with pink, which describes the color of Swamp Milkweed flowers.

  • Swamp Milkweed can be easily distinguished from other milkweeds with pink flowers by its long narrow leave; and it is the only native milkweed species preferring wet ground.

  • Commonly referred to as Swamp Milkweed because of its association with highly saturated soils in wetlands or areas that are flooded seasonally.

For more information on the Swamp Milkweed and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden, Monarch Watch, and The Ohio State University Weed Guide.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!