Milkweeds are Blooming

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Now that we’re getting into summertime, we’re beginning to see milkweeds in bloom. This one is Asclepias variegata, white milkweed. I photographed this on a roadside in Sewanee — looks almost too elegant for a roadside plant, doesn’t it?

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Milkweeds are famous as a favorite nectaring plant for monarch butterflies, which incorporate the milkweed’s toxins in their bodies to ward off predators. This flower has a rich, sweet fragrance.

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And look who it’s attracted — a little ant! Many milkweeds exude their milky sap when they’re punctured by an insect’s pointy leg. The sap then hinders the ant’s progress up the stem to steal nectar. Milkweeds — and most insect-pollinated flowers — depend on flying insects to carry pollen from flower to flower — they don’t put up with crawling insects like this.

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