Thursday, June 23, 2011

Purple Milkweed

There are eight species of milkweeds growing at Blue Jay Barrens and I think the Purple Milkweed, Asclepias purpurascens, produces the prettiest flower.

I find Purple Milkweed as isolated individuals scattered around the property. Occasionally I’ll find them in the open field, but most of the time they will be located in partial shade in somewhat moist soils. They don’t seem to be as capable of producing vigorous rhizomes as the Common Milkweed. Maybe a large group of these blooms would be too pretty for the eye to bear.

The flowers are held upright at the top of the stalk. This makes them highly visible from a long distance, so it’s pretty easy to find the plants when they are blooming.

Like others of its genus, Purple Milkweed flowers are insect magnets. This flower head had quite a few of these little beetles crawling among the petals. As soon as I saw the beetle, my mind declared that it knew exactly what I was looking at. Frustratingly, it refused to release the information to me. I know I’ve seen it before and identified it before, but the ID just won’t come to me. I’ll remember eventually. Is it considered learning something new when you relearn something you’ve forgotten?

The leaves are only sparsely haired on the upper surface. This gives them a shiny, dark green appearance. I always think it has a tropical look to it, especially when it’s growing in a shady area. There are normally a few places along the leaf margins that show a little wave or curl. This tends to make each plant identifiable as an individual.

There are also a lot of insects that find the structure of the milkweed suited to their predatory or scavenger needs. This little hopper is feeding on some type of tree cricket. I’m assuming it found the dead cricket and is just taking advantage of the situation. In a fair fight, I just don’t see this guy being able to outdo the slightly larger cricket.


  1. Hi Steve,Bean weevil
    Acanthoscelides obtectus perhaps

  2. Thanks, Michael. Bean or Pea Weevil is what my mind was trying to dredge up. I'm not sure I've ever identified one to species.