Friday, September 28, 2012

Butterfly Weed

Each summer comes to its end, and as the days draw in, the annuals in my flower garden get down to the business of setting seeds.

The zinnias have gone shabby, though still vividly colored...handsome from a distance.

Many of the dwarf sunflowers have shed their brilliant petals, but the seeds
haven't plumped enough to harvest.

The garden draws me, even in this season of its decline.

I note with frustration the weeds that have pushed through layers of mulch, fret over the gaps where some  perennials gave up during the heat and drought of July.
I cherish those hardy plants that have revived for an autumn flowering.

My clump of butterfly weed [asclepias tuberosa] had its beginnings as a wildling. In years past I ordered seed of this brilliant member of the milkweed family--seed which never germinated. During our first summer here, I was delighted to recognize the plant growing in vigorous patches in the horse pasture.

Butterfly weed is sometimes known as 'orange milkweed.'
I moved a root to my perennial strip, and while it hasn't spread as fast as I expected, it seems well established.

The seed pods are more slender than those of its common cousin, but the seeds are borne on similar silky parachutes, filmy threads which catch the sun as the promise of new life is
carried away on the autumn wind.


  1. The dwarf sunflowers are so beautiful. Every season has it's beauty, even at the end.

  2. After the weird summer weather this year my garden looks better now than it has all year! Your photos look grand to me.

  3. I love to see the plants that we don't have here in England. Those fluffy heads of the milkweed. Do you know why it is called that?

  4. As always, the most beautiful pictures.

  5. I so admire your commitment to your garden is so full of interesting plants. xx

  6. A lovely post, - fall in the garden borders on being melancholy, but there are always bright spots and surprises!

  7. I thank you all for the comments--time lately has gotten away from me in terms of 'replies.'
    Her, for those like Kath who may have wondered, is a description of the name 'milkweed.' [Courtesy of wikipedia!]
    Asclepias L. (1753), the milkweeds, is a genus of herbaceous perennial, dicotyledonous plants that contains over 140 known species. It previously belonged to the family Asclepiadaceae, but this is now classified as the subfamily Asclepiadoideae of the dogbane family Apocynaceae.

    Milkweed is named for its milky juice, which contains alkaloids, latex, and several other complex compounds including cardenolides. Some species are known to be toxic.

  8. Butterfly weed is also cultivated for its roots and is known in the UK as pleurisy root. I grow it on my patio in the Midlands and it seems to be flourishing. I've also had a milkweed self seed in my herb garden which was very unexpected as I'd never seen one before.