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Types of milkweed

Making It Grow Radio Minute

At the Irmo Middle School pollinator/monarch garden, we took time from filming to watching the insects flying around. Fortunately, milkweed nectar and pollen don’t have the poisonous compounds and unpalatable latex found in their leaves. One native milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, called butterfly weed, was super attractive to all sorts of bees, while common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca was the red-headed stepchild and completely ignored. The butterfly weed milkweed has glorious orange flowers, perhaps the color of those flowers was what caught the eye of the pollinators – it certainly is popular with gardeners who grow it for its long-lasting cut flowers. But common milkweed has more tender leaves and is preferred by females as the one to lay eggs on, so you should include it in your garden even though the flowers are rather dull by comparison.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.