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Friday, June 22, 2012
Plant of the Week: Butterfly Milkweed
This beautiful prairie wildflower has weathered the recent drought well at Nature Boardwalk. Butterfly milkweed is a tuberous, rooted perennial. It grows in clumps to 1–3 feet tall and features clusters of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining, hairy stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. The complex flowers are divided into five parts with upward-projecting hood-like nectaries and conventional petals below. (A nectary is the nectar-producing location of the flower, typically held in some sort of a cup or tube at the end of fused petals.) Spindle-shaped seed pods split open when ripe, releasing papery, brown, silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. The flowers and leaves are a nectar and food source for many butterflies. The plant’s other common name, pleurisy root, refers to past historic use of the roots as a folk medicine to treat lung inflammations.
Common Names: butterfly milkweed, pleurisy root, butterfly weed
Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa
Native Status: United States to northern Mexico
Plant Type: herbaceous perennial
Height: 1–2.5 feet
Flowering Time: June–August
Flower Color: yellow, orange
Interest: Flowers bloom in summer. Fruit/seed production begins in summer and ends in fall. Attracts butterflies.
Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
By transforming the South Pond into Nature Boardwalk, Lincoln Park Zoo has created an urban ecosystem in the heart of the city. Enjoy a virtual view as native plants and animals establish themselves in this rare refuge.
As Lincoln Park Zoo’s director of horticulture, Brian oversees the zoo’s gardens, from bud to bloom.
As coordinator of wildlife management, Mason chronicles the bugs, birds, fish, insects, mammals and more that make their homes at Nature Boardwalk.
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