Two familiar summer plants

Many species of milkweed are in bloom throughout the county. The more common milkweeds found in our area include the common milkweed (Asclepius syriaca) and swamp milkweed (Asclepius incarnate).

Common milkweed has wide flattened leaves, while the swamp variety has longer, lancelet leaves. Both varieties are perennial herbaceous plants that flower in mid-summer and produce greenish seedponds with flat seeds and silky hairs that can be dispersed long distances through the air.

Milkweeds get their name as they produce a milky white sap that oozes from wounds to the plant. This sap has alkaloids and latex, which is mildly poisonous. The immature larvae of the monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed, concentrating these chemicals in its body, which makes it distasteful to predators.

The bloom is fragrant and contains a lot of nectar. As such, these plants attract a lot of butterflies and hummingbirds when in bloom. Many species of milkweed are being cultivated for native butterfly gardens and meadows.

The plant has strong fibers and was used for rope and textiles in the 1800s. The name Asclepius is taken from the Greek god of healing since milkweeds have been used in many folk remedies. The seed oil of the milkweed plant contains a chemical that is an effective blocker of the sun's rays and it is used in the production of sunscreen.

Chicory

Chicory are in bloom. This bushy perennial herb has a lavender flower that blooms in late June to mid-July. It is commonly found around roadsides in its native Europe and North America where it has been naturalized. The roots and leaves of chicory can be baked and ground into a substitute or additive for coffee.

Chicory can be baked, ground and used as a coffee substitute

Courtesy Photo

Chicory has long been used for medicinal tonic in Europe, especially Germany, where it is thought to be a treatment for gallstones and to eliminate intestinal parasites.

Nature Notes for 8/1/2010