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ATP Podcast #95: Save the Monarchs: Grow Milkweed!

By dave
September 11, 2015

In this episode Dave and Trish discuss the plight that the monarch butterflies are facing, and talk about some of our favorite milkweed species that we recommend people grow.

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Name: DND
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
Sep 12, 2015 8:18 AM CST
Dave and Trish,

This was the first full podcast I had time to sit and listen to here on ATP and I loved it! Thumbs up Thank you for covering milkweed and its importance to the monarch butterflies. I'm closer to being one of the people who do the 'fancy landscaping' than the 'wild landscaping' (and I still listen to/love your podcast), and I would love to have the Asclepias tuberosa in my landscaping Lovey dubby ...but I'm especially concerned about the toxicity of the plant to dogs and children, so I had to hold off planting it. Sad

While listening to your podcast, I had another tab open and I was looking up the different varieties as you were talking about them and it was neat to learn about varieties other than Asclepias tuberosa. I really liked the tropical milkweed (Asclepias Curassavica) and, as I was perusing the pictures of it on ATP, I was thinking how much it looked like Lantana; and then you, Dave, even commented on that, which I thought was great. Big Grin 'Dallas Red' Lantana (although that's the first I've heard the cultivar name) is always one of my favorites at the nurseries and it makes me sad that neither lantana nor Asclepias Curassavica are winter hardy. Glare Ah well, it weren't for hardiness ruling some plants out for my area, I'd probably never be able to decide which plants I wanted most in my yard! Rolling my eyes.

Going back to toxicity, though, one thing that I had hoped might have been discussed in the podcast is how toxic milkweed plants are, the symptoms of exposure to it, what to do in the event of contact (or ingestion) with people and pets, and whether or not some varieties are less toxic than others so that some of us, with less naturalized landscaping, would know if there is a variety that we could safely plant. I might try to google it at some point because now you have me very interested in milkweed again.

Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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Sep 12, 2015 2:59 PM CST Admin

Your post illustrates the value of having comments here on the articles. Toxicity of milkweed did not cross my mind when discussing it and I'm glad you raised the point so that others can do their due diligence. Thumbs up
Name: Linda
Medina Co., TX (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Salvias Herbs Bluebonnets Native Plants and Wildflowers Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Forum moderator Purslane Hummingbirder Cat Lover Butterflies Birds
Sep 12, 2015 4:43 PM CST
Here's some info that includes toxicity:
I don't know what the least toxic kind might be. I would think that Asclepias tuberosa would be safer, because I've heard it tends to lack the latex-like white sap that most milkweeds have. In my area, that species cannot be successfully grown, even though a number of organizations include it in lists of recommended native plants given out here. It's also less preferred by Monarchs, but some will use it as a host plant, I hear. One thing seldom mentioned on safety is that whenever you have contact with milkweed sap, such as when cutting it back, you should take precautions. Wash your hands well immediately after. If the sap ever should get into your eye, it can cause damage to the cornea, so that should be considered an emergency if it happens, and eyes should be carefully rinsed out before seeking medical help. The milkweed taste very bitter and the chances of a pet swallowing enough to be poisoned are small. I've had no problem with my cats. Deer will graze on the flowering parts of milkweed and I haven't yet heard of any of them dying from it around here.
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. E. B.White
Integrity can never be taken. It can only be given, and I wasn't going to give it up to these people. Gary Mowad

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