June is Perennial and Pollinator Month here at Rolling Green Nursery. One very special plant that we adore is a perennial, pollinator, and a North American native: Milkweed.
As caterpillars, Monarchs feed exclusively on the leaves of Asclepias (commonly known as Milkweed), and simply cannot live without it. Milkweed produces glycoside toxins to deter animals from eating them, but Monarchs have developed an immunity to these toxins. As they feed, they store up the toxins in their body, making them taste bad, which in turn deters their predators. The toxins remain in their system even after metamorphosis, protecting them as adult butterflies as well. Monarchs then feed on nectar from a wide range of blooming native plants as adults.
We are currently selling Asclepias tuberosa, with lovely bright orange blossoms. We also have Swamp Milkweed and Common Milkweed. We encourage you to leave any Common Milkweed you find in your yard alone. It was once considered a nuisance weed, but we now know what an important role it plays in supporting Monarchs, which have been in rapid decline.
Your Milkweed plants will not be destroyed by caterpillars munching on them either, so you can enjoy them as useful and beautiful perennials without worry.
Here is some more information on Milkweed and a video on a hungry Monarch caterpillar munching away!