Friday, June 5, 2015

Milkweed Chronicles - Asclepias Purpurascens, Purple Milkweed

It's unclear whether purple milkweed was ever very common here in the heart of Carolina (all of our field guides either categorize it as rare or omit it altogether), but we've only encountered it twice, both times within a few hundred meters of the same location in northern Moore County, between Carthage and Carbonton. 

We were a bit dismayed to find that last year's stand had been stifled by an herbicide sprayed on recently clear-cut woodland acreage which was being prepared for replanting, 
but fortunately for us, 
a second stand emerged just down the road on the margin of a small creek which eventually flows into the nearby Deep River.

Just like our friend common milkweed, this small clump of purple milkweed has attracted an amazingly rich and diverse assortment of companions, among them butterflies, carpenter bees, bumblebees, soldier beetles and even a perfectly camouflaged crab spider or two.

Although Genus Asclepias boasts a variety of colors, sizes and textures among its dozen or so native NC species, its distinctive flower blossoms have a very similar anatomy across the various species.

And for all their aesthetic appeal, the milkweed in bloom is even more attractive as a food source for nectar lovers and pollinators of every imaginable ilk. 

Plain brown skippers and tiny marsh-dwelling bronze-hued least skippers lead a butterfly brigade, flitting from flower to flower and plant to plant and back again, occasionally fluttering to free an errant leg inadvertently trapped in the slender slits of the flowers' central reproductive chamber. 

As the sun moves ever closer to the horizon, 
we reluctantly leave the lovely purple milkweed to the company of its arthropod admirers and other bottomland wanderers,  

vowing to pass this way again before the blossoms fade at summer's end. 

And winding our way up the sandy hill beside,  

we hope, perhaps, to spy the fiery orange butterfly weed, 

close cousin to the rare purple beauty we leave behind... 

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