Asclepias Monkey Balls plant. Oh my word, the nickname of this plant is Monkey Balls. I have been talking about it for days now. The clusters of hanging flowers gives absolutely no clue that it will produce these furry balls all over the plant. We stand amazed as the butterflies and bees swarm all over.
Milkweeds are a great nectar food source for bees and butterflies and a larval food source for Monarch Butterflies. I’m helping to track the Monarch migration on their journey back to Mexico. I signed up at Monarch Butterfly Journey North. I don’t see my entries up yet for NC but my first sighting was on August 15th. They are migrating from the North back to Mexico where they’ll stay for the winter.
I’ve seen the Monarchs out several times today on my flowers but every time I go out to get a picture, they fly away. They seem to be twice as shy as the swallowtails. The swallowtails will sit and pose for you.
They are drawn to the Mexican Sunflowers and the Furr Balls plant that grow in my garden. Well of course they love the lantana and butterfly bushes too. And did I mention they like my Monrovia Winchester honeysuckle?
Asclepias are the milkweeds. I’m fortunate enough to be growing a variety called Furr Balls from the Kew Society through Thompson and Morgan seeds. I did a previous post on them HERE. You can get purchase information from that post.
There is a wonderful article by Barbara Schuster on the Flower Essence Society site. Barbara studies the Asclepias syriaca and gives excellent insight to the characteristics the Milkweeds. The white milk from the plant has plenty of medicinal uses. See Barbara’s medicinal and nutritional uses and how it can cure warts! I’ve never seen a plant with so many different beneficial uses.
The milk can induce vomiting. Birds who eat Monarch butterflies that have dined on Milkweed—will vomit too. Human consumption is tricky. The indians used it for both good and killing purposes. They would poison their arrows with it and on a better note—mothers would use it to stimulate their flow of milk for nursing. The harvesting of the Milkweed juice and timing of that procedure is key to its many uses. Boiling it or manner of preparing it can also change its beneficial uses. So don’t go out and start drinking the stuff!
Milkweeds have tricky pollination methods. The bees on my Monkey Balls don’t seem to notice that in their drunken nectar stupor they have been lifted of their pollen cargo.
When a bee buzzes up inside a flower—a flower part( called pollina) attaches and takes hold of pollen pods located on the bees legs. It steals it from the bee. The pollina will eventually get trapped in the anther–and wa la—you have fertilization!
I am 5’4″ tall so I’m guessing my reach is 6’4″ or more. These were suppose to only be 48″ tall. Ha!
Carolus Linnaeus named the plant after the Greek god of healing–Asclepius.