Be careful when purchasing milkweed in Florida. We all want to help the monarchs by providing more milkweed for their caterpillars, but the wrong kind can be dangerous for them. “Tropical” and “Orange” varieties look a lot alike but one is potentially harmful to the life cycle of the Monarch.
Orange flowering milkweed is also known as Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). It is native to many parts of north America. This one has orange flowers – no red.
The Tropical Milkeed (shown below) is not the same thing. And the tropical milkweed, which has red and orange-yellow flowers, is actually bad for the monarchs. (Because they look so much alike, I thought they were one and the same. This blog post was originally about propagating and planting this type!)
It is one you may come across often when shopping for milkweed in Florida. It is also called Scarlet, Silky Scarlet, Mexican, Red, or Blood. The key here is that it has red flowers. They look nearly identical in form to the native orange milkweed, so don’t be fooled.
Say NO to Red Flowering Milkweed
This type of milkweed can have a parasite that infects the caterpillar which in turn infects the butterfly. Also, it does not die back and lose it’s leaves which may interfere with migration patterns. Read about this here at the Nola site.
This link also has images of the Swamp Milkweed and others that are okay for the butterflies. Look for pink, white or orange flowering types.
Already Growing in the Yard?
Look for tips about cutting the tropical milkweed down at certain times of year so the Monarchs won’t use it. (The link to Nola above talks about that.) But the fact that this type of plant can spread a disease has convinced me to destroy the few plants I do have. None of them are thriving anyway.
The Monarch Butterfly Migration Story
What to Look For When Shopping
Know the names of the native milkweed for your area. It may not be blooming at the nursery. It is also very hard to find. In fact, finding a grower who carries native plants is not all that easy to find in itself.
There is one place near me and when I visited recently all the milkweed plants were gone. I’m not sure which kind they were selling but the section was empty. I hope it was not the tropical variety.
At the Plant Real Florida site you can shop by hardiness zone and find shops that sell plants and / or seeds.
2 thoughts on “Orange Flowering Butterfly Milkweed”