Gulf fritillary on Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Summer is Milkweed Season

Pictured above: Gulf fritillary on Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) by Mary Keim
Article by Jeff Norcini

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) have been highly publicized as critical larval host plants for the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Of the  22 species that occur in Florida, the only non-native species is Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica).* Our native milkweeds bloom mainly in spring or summer; however, in summer, only four of them are common and relatively easy to spot:

close-up of pink swamp milkweed flowers
Pink swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) by Mary Keim
Lanceleaf milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata) by Stacey Matrazzo
close-up of white swamp milkweed flowers
White swamp milkweed (Asclepias perennis) by Peg Urban
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) by Eleanor Dietrich

All occur in wet areas except Butterfly milkweed, which likes it high and dry. And while all occur in full sun or under the light, filtered shade of pine forests, Swamp milkweed (A. perennis) is the most shade tolerant. Of the four, Fewflower milkweed is the easiest to spot because of its bright orange flowers that bloom at the end of a long, slender stem that can be 5 or 6 ft tall. All of these milkweeds occur along roadsides, with rural areas being the best place to see them. They also occur in natural areas like state and national forests and wildlife management areas. You might also see them in urban plantings as towns, cities and counties become more aware of the importance of vital host plants.

A summer-blooming Monarch larval host plant that you might not be aware of is White twinevine (Funastrum clausum; formerly Sarcostemma clausum). It occurs in Central and South Florida, mainly in moist areas, although I saw it in the parking lot of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary many years ago. (For more information about White twinevine, click here.)

As a reminder, when you are out and about enjoying the summer beauty that Mother Nature has blessed us with, please don’t pick the wildflowers. The best way to preserve the memory of our native wildflowers in bloom is to take a picture – it will last longer. Many of our native wildflowers reproduce only by seed. Picking a flower reduces the ability of that plant to reproduce and for that population of wildflowers to sustain itself. If you want to pick wildflowers, plant some in your yard or in containers on your patio or porch. Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered! Click to browse our resources for selecting, planting and maintaining native plants in your landscape. To find a native garden center near you, visit

White twinevine, Sarcostemma clausum, Funastrum clausum
White twinevine (Funastrum clausum) by Bob Peterson (CC BY 2.0)


Contact your county maintenance yard supervisor to ask that wildflowers in specific locations be spared. On state and US highways, contact your Florida Department of Transportation District Wildflower Coordinator. Find your District Wildflower Coordinator here.

Fewflower milkweed, Asclepias lanceolata, on Dixie County roadside
Fewflower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata) grows along a Dixie County roadway. Photo by Jeff Norcini

Submit your photos!

It’s easy to submit photos of the native wildflowers you see for posting on the Foundation’s What’s in Bloom map. Just email them to You can also post photos to the Florida Native Wildflowers Facebook group and Florida Wildflowers Flickr group. For all submissions, please include the plant’s scientific name (common name is OK) and its location. If you are uncertain about a wildflower’s nativity to Florida, consult the Atlas of Florida Plants before posting. If submitting a photo to the Foundation’s Facebook group and you can’t identify it using the Atlas of Florida Plants, inquire about nativity when posting. There are many other good botany resources noted in the Facebook group’s rules.