The milkweed is a food plant for Plain Tiger butterfly caterpillars and during times of a heavy infestation, entire plants can become totally defoliated. When the five stands of my milkweed were under attack some time back, I thought I am going to lose them but the plants managed to regenerate after a while after I picked the caterpillars off and having moved them to another location in the community garden where they are now hidden and safe from caterpillars.
The first milkweeds I planted in my garden produced red flowers and only recently I managed to get the yellow flowered version. The colours of the milkweed are very bright and striking and flowering milkweed plants can certainly help to brighten up a boring spot in the garden. Being marginal plants, they can be planted in waterlogged areas.
Milkweeds are commonly grow in full sun but they seem to do equally well in a location where they receive semishade or filtered sunshine. My milkweed plants are currently grown under the shade of a willow tree (Salix babylonia). On one side, there is a high concrete wall while on the other, there is a dense hedge made up of Syzygium campanulatum plants.
Botanically known as Asclepias curassavica, the milkweed plant is a member of the Asclepiadaceae family. Did you notice the close resemblence of the milkweed flowers with those of the Wax Flower (Hoya spp.)? Both plants, in fact, belong to the same plant family.
The spindle-shaped fruits produced by milkweed plants are easily missed because they are green and hence are well camouflaged with the green colour of their leaves. When they are ripe, these pods turn brown and dry where they then split open to allow the wind to carry away the numerous seeds.
The seeds of the milkweed are small, flat and black in colour. Their small size makes them really light and the silky, furry appendage they are attached to helps to catch the wind so that they can be easily carried away by a light breeze.
The milkweed probably got its common name via the milky appearance of the sap that is exuded from broken and injured parts of the plant. Do bear in mind that the milkweed is a poisonous plant and one must not ingest or allow the sap to get onto one’s skin. Hence parents and teachers should keep an eye on children when they are near this plant in the garden. The milkweed has its educational purposes where adults can use it to teach the young ones about wind dispersal of seeds, as well as, the reality that there are poisonous plants in the Plant Kingdom.