Each day of Pollinator Week, we will feature two native pollinator plants. Stop by the nursery on Saturday June 26 and tell us the plants to get DOUBLE POINTS on your Loyalty Card.
(Hint – the first letter of the botanic name of each plant spells a special word by the end of the week!)
Thursday June 24 Asclepias incarnata and Tradescantia virginiana
Tradescantia virginiana. Did you know many of our popular flowering plants are as edible as they are beautiful? For example, Tradescantia virginiana (Widow’s Ttears, Spiderwort) is edible! Leaves, flowers, roots, and even seeds provide a variety of culinary and herbal uses. (Please ALWAYS research plants before consuming any parts, and be sure you have correctly ID’d any plant before harvesting and consuming.)
Bumblebees are the most important pollinators of the flowers. Other bee visitors include honeybees, Little Carpenter bees, and Halictid bees. Syrphid flies also visit the flowers, but they feed on stray pollen and are not effective pollinators.
Rose Milkweed — what a lovely alternative common name for the plant otherwise known as Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). It’s fragrant rosy-mauve blossoms are what has led to this new common name. It is a beautiful, well-mannered milkweed for any sunny garden space with moist to wet, saturated soil. Like all members of the Asclepias genus, it provides nectar for adult Monarchs and larval food for developing Monarch caterpillars. A ‘must-have’ for every garden!
While you don’t need a swamp to grow it, it does not like areas that dry out, so choosing a site that is consistently moist is key. Unlike common milkweed, swamp milkweed does not spread aggressively by roots, although it will seed around in optimum conditions. This species grows 3-4’ tall on average and 2-3’ wide. Looks great massed with Echinacea and Heliopsis. This species seems to always have the most caterpillars on it at the nursery, and we think it’s thin, smooth tender foliage is preferred by them!
The flowers are very popular with many insects in addition to Monarchs, including bumblebees, honeybees, long-horned bees, Halictid bees, Sphecid wasps, Vespid wasps, Tiphiid wasps, Spider wasps, Mydas flies, thick-headed flies, Tachinid flies, Swallowtail butterflies, Greater Fritillaries, and skippers. Another occasional visitor of the flowers is the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. All of these visitors seek nectar.