Whorled Milkweed

Common Name: Whorled Milkweed.

Scientific Name: Asclepias Verticillata.

What to look for?  Described as the tiniest and cutest milkweed with white crowns as flowers. The narrow, linear leaves are whorled along numerous upright stems. Clusters of white or greenish white flowers appear at the tops of these stems in mid-summer. When you look at the flowers up close, they have a complexity with the shape of the five sepals and five forward-pointing petals. There is a crown-like appearance to each flower. The root system is rhizomatous and often leads to colonies of clonal plants.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Whorled Milkweed plants pop up in the meadow areas around Carillon Stonegate Pond and at Stonegate Park.

How big are they? The Whorled Milkweed grows up to three (3) feet tall. The narrow leaves are approximately four (4) inches long and less than ¼ of an inch across. An umbel or cluster that holds dozens of tiny flowers is approximately one (1) inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The native Whorled Milkweed occurs across most areas of Illinois. Across the U.S., this plant is found in most states east of the Rockies. The Whorled Milkweed is found in prairies, openings in rocky upland forests, sandy savannas, limestone glades, meadows, pastures, and abandoned fields.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Whorled Milkweed occurs from early to late summer, lasting about a couple of months.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The nectar of the Whorled Milkweed flowers attracts many kinds of insects, including honeybees, bumblebees, and a variety of other bees, several types of wasps, Monarchs, Painted Lady, Clouded Sulphur (see photo) and other butterflies, skippers, and moths. Some insects feed destructively on the foliage, flowers, seedpods, and other parts of Whorled Milkweed, including Small Milkweed Bug. Because of its high toxicity, animals usually avoid the foliage of Whorled Milkweed as a food source.

Interesting Facts About the Whorled Milkweed:

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

  • Specific epithet comes from the Latin word verticillatus meaning whorled in reference to the leaves appearing in whorls.

  • All milkweeds are toxic to livestock, but the Whorled Milkweed is one of the more toxic ones.

  • Recent significant declines in monarch butterfly populations in North America are believed by many experts to be related to a corresponding significant decline in milkweed plants such as the Whorled Milkweed.

For more information on the Whorled 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, Missouri Botanical Garden, Chicago Botanical Garden, and University of Texas Wildflower Center.

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!