Q. What kind of milkweed can we plant in our area to support the national effort to save the monarch butterfly?
Cindi from Youngstown
A. Monarch butterflies are quite beautiful and provide an opportunity for us to connect plant species to insects – the need for diversity within the landscape that exists in nature. Most butterflies can get nectar from many different plants, but most have specific requirements for their larvae.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a common plant along roadsides throughout Ohio. It is a perennial plant, growing up to 6 feet tall in the right location. It is quite straight and tall, with opposite, oval leaves. If you break off a leaf or stem, you’ll notice the milky sap from which the plant most likely got its name.
The flowers are fuzzy, purplish-pink, and bloom in ball-like clusters near the top of the plant. As they fade, you’ll notice the large, 3- to 5-feet-long pointed pods. You most likely don’t even think of them until you see the 450 or so white fuzz flying out of the pods, dispersing seeds throughout the area.
You can collect these seeds and grow your own milkweed garden or you can order these seeds through several catalogues. Be sure to look for the proper the botanical name, Asclepias syriaca, to be sure you get the correct seeds for the correct plant.
Our experts at Ohio State say that butterfly weed, joe-pye weed, goldenrod, asters and blazing star are all plants that support the adult monarchs with nectar. But, milkweed is the only plant that supports the monarch larvae.
Find, Collect, Grow Milkweed: http://go.osu.edu/growmilkweed
Pictures and description of common milkweed: http://go.osu.edu/commonmilkweed
Types of plants to attract specific butterflies in Ohio: http://go.osu.edu/butterflygardens
Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hot line at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Clinic hours are Mondays and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon through October.