Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Native Cottage Garden

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii
What do you think of when someone uses the term cottage garden? A collection of colorful flowers, informally arranged, with some structure like a fence? I like Wikipedia’s description: “English in origin, it depends on grace and charm rather than grandeur and formal structure.” My friend Julie recently moved to a new house and declared that she wanted to create a cottage garden with a picket fence, using native plants. That sounded like a wonderful challenge!

Echinacea purpurea

While Julie got the existing landscape removed and the hardscape installed, we put our heads together to come up with a list of plants to include in what would be long space beside the driveway.  The fence replaced a privet hedge – how awesome to install native flowers instead of privet!

We wanted to include plants that were native to Georgia, would have a seasonal assortment of blooms from spring to fall, and that would be reasonably available from her existing plants, or be available to purchase locally, or were donated by friends. 

Mid-July
Once we composed the list of potential plants, we grouped them in a plan on paper, with careful arrangement of taller plants in the back and part-shade plants in an area that gets afternoon shade. Some plants would overlap seasons, of course. After an informal consultation with a landscape designer, we sprinkled the seasonal plants throughout the span but created groups of some plants (for example, sections of cardinal flower plants together) for more impact.

Coreopsis with Penstemon in late spring
Coreopsis major, late spring


















Here are the lists we developed to get started. She was in time to shop the spring sales for items that she didn't have or for new inspirations. Not all the plants in the plan made it into the cottage garden (some went elsewhere in her new spaces because she ripped out pretty much everything but the trees!). Some plant sale finds worked their way in.

Spring (March to May)

Mouse-eared coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata), beardtongue (Penstemon smallii and P. digitalis), red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), baptisia (Baptisia sp.), fleabane (Erigeron pulchellus), copper iris (Iris fulva), dwarf iris (Iris verna), sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.), rain lily (Zephyranthes atamasca), goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), green n gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), geranium (Geranium maculatum), coral bells (Heuchera americana), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata), lyre leaf sage (Salvia lyrata), celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum).

Summer (June to August)

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea), stokes aster (Stokesia laevis), summer coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata, C. grandiflora, C. major, C. verticillata), hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, not native to GA), milkweed (Asclepias sp.), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), sneezeweed (Helenium sp.), Iris, blazingstar (Liatris sp.), beebalm (Monarda sp.), summer phlox (Phlox carolina, P. paniculatum), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp.), Scutellaria, rosinweed (Silphium sp.), Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum), partridge pea (Chamaecrista sp.), blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella), narrowleaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium).

The garden is long and narrow
Silphium asteriscus feeds bees and birds





















Fall (September to November)

Goldenrods (Solidago sp.), asters (Symphyotrichum sp.), Boltonia asteroides, turtlehead (Chelone glabra), Joe pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum), boneset (Eupatorium sp.), perennial sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, H. atrorubens), white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), Georgia savory (Clinopodium georgianum), blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), white wood aster (Eurybia divaricata), ironweed (Vernonia sp.), downy lobelia (Lobelia puberula).

The area was planted in the spring. The spring plants bloomed well, but there were many spaces in between them. These pictures are from early-June and mid-July. The plants have grown, filling in many of the spaces. The plants have been blooming right on time. The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is on its second flush of blooms even as seed pods are forming on the very same plants. Now is the time to take notes about which have done well, which have done TOO well, and other considerations such as which would benefit from staking or relocation.

This corner echoes the other side of the driveway
Aside from the cottage garden, the rest of the landscape is just as native and just as interesting. A sunny area across the driveway echoes many of the plants from the cottage garden. Shade areas are full of ferns and shade-loving perennials. An assortment of native azaleas and other shrubs anchor the foundation under tall oaks. New young trees stretch their roots throughout the landscape.

Asclepias tuberosa (second flush in July)
and bumble bee
The local insects seem happy: bumble bees were visiting many flowers and a passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) on the fence had been stripped of leaves by Gulf Fritillary caterpillars (and that’s a good thing!).

Julie’s garden is a welcoming oasis for critters, full of native plants and absent of pesticides. I look forward to watching the garden throughout the seasons and throughout the years.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It’s a Numbers Game

Spring and summer is a busy time in nature. Flowers are blooming, birds are having babies, and insects and reptiles are laying eggs too. In some cases, the amount of potential offspring seems huge. Seeds drop from flowers and create carpets of seedlings, for example. Why so many? If you watch closely, you’ll see that not all of them make it, so the drive to survive must hedge its bets with sufficient quantity.

Several birds have raised families in our yard this year. I was thrilled to have the bluebirds in our old box and enjoyed watching them bring food back for the babies. About a month after they fledged, I noticed another pair eyeing the box. I had forgotten to clean out the nest, but I spied a single egg in there. Thinking that they had laid it, I left the old nest alone.

After about two weeks, with no more birds in sight, I checked again and saw the single egg. Well, shoot. Obviously, it was left over from before or is one that was abandoned. There’s one that won’t make it.


One of the baby Phoebes
I also watched a group of 5 fledgling Eastern Phoebes flit around the yard under the watchful eye of their parents. For a whole week, I could see those parents continue to feed and guide those youngsters. On my way to the mailbox, I saw one baby try to land on a branch. After 3 attempts, he settled for the ground. Those fledglings were extremely vulnerable during that period, it’s no wonder that they had 5 babies!

My experience raising monarch caterpillars this year was a lesson in numbers as well. Two monarch females laid about 50 eggs in April. I collected some of them for my rearing cage. Some of the ones that I left on the plants in the yard were eaten by deer (they ate the tips of the orange butterflyweed while the tiny cats were gathered there). Some of the eggs never hatched. About 3 of the caged ones died suddenly of no apparent injury. Two of them died in their chrysalis (never emerged). In the end, about 26 caterpillars made it to adulthood and were released, just over 50%.

Caterpillars on oak leaf (probably oakworm moth)

And then there’s the food chain. Big bugs eat smaller bugs. Spiders eat bugs that get too close. Lizards eat bugs that aren't paying attention. Fish eat tadpoles. Birds eat fish. Snakes eat frogs. Birds eat caterpillars, and wasps feed caterpillars to their young.

All of this eating means that there need to be enough babies to get past the hazards to reach adulthood. It really is a numbers game.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer Blues

I often say that we don’t have many native blue flowers but it suddenly hit me last week that my garden was overflowing with blue color in these early days of summer.  And then I remembered that I’d fooled myself once on this already when I published a blog about blue flowers in spring. Well, I’ll continue that theme, this time focusing on some of our summer blues.

Wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis)
With so many yellow summer flowers, it’s great to mix in some blues for contrast. I know some people like gardens with all one color, but I think that having different colors allows them all to pop in their own way (so please mix up your blues with other things!).

This month’s standout has been Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis). This is not a plant that I have ever planted on purpose, but it has come in with other things and then seeded around. The number of blooms has been fantastic and it is a host plant for the buckeye butterfly.

Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata






A similar hitchhiker has been self-heal (Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata). This member of the mint family is just as aggressive as its relatives, but the pollinators do love it. I used to think that it was not native, but this one with the lanceolate leaves does seem to be considered native. So I’ll just pull out the extras and leave some around. The bees do love it.

Another bee favorite is anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). This is a perennial that acts more like an annual – it blooms for weeks and weeks. The goldfinches love the seeds on it, and the deer don’t care for it at all. Winner!

Stokesia laevis
Agastache foeniculum


















Stokes’s aster (Stokesia laevis) is one of the prettiest shades of blue. It is native to south Georgia but is a wonderful garden plant throughout the state. It does like a little bit of moisture but mostly it just prefers not to dry out. My original plant died, but I’ve got a nice group now at the bottom of the driveway; the slope helps keep the area moist.

I’ve had downy skullcap (Scutellaria incana) for years but it’s always been a pale shade of purple. Last year, I got a few plants from a friend with deep purple blooms. I also have Scutellaria integrifolia, a more petite species that likes to seed around. I’ve had to relocate several of them out of the lawn so that they could grow up and bloom. Helmet flower is another common name.

Scutellaria incana
Lobelia spicata



















A very soft blue can be found in palespike lobelia (Lobelia spicata). A deeper blue that we can still look forward to is great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). The bees really love this one while the butterflies like its red cousin, cardinal flower (L. cardinalis). Downy blue lobelia  (L. puberula) is also pretty late. You can see pictures of all of them in my blog on lobelias.

Blue flowers that were not featured in the spring blog and which are past bloom now include the butterfly peas (Centrosema virginianum and Clitoria mariana). Sometimes those will bloom again but their first flush is over. The spring iris species such as Virginia iris (Iris virginica) and zigzag iris (Iris brevicaulis) were gorgeous this year, but I'll probably need to divide them before they take over certain areas.

If you don’t have enough blue in your garden, think about adding some of these. I think I’m going to have to stop saying we don’t have many blues. Obviously, we are doing fine!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Natives in the Garden

Black cohosh (Actaea
racemosa) in a pot
with petunias.
A friend of mine has a most beautiful garden set alongside a native woodland that is naturally rich in a diverse assortment of native plants. I have known Debbie for many years and have long enjoyed visits to her garden - an inspiring mix of native plants, non-native garden perennials, and a robust vegetable garden.

It’s one of the finest examples I’ve seen of combining these types of plants together in a pleasing and harmonious mix. I hope it will inspire you to bring more native plants into your garden.

The lot is spacious and quiet, characteristics that certainly attracted Debbie to it. During construction, she stopped by often to check on the progress. One day, one of the workers commented on what an amazing diversity of native plants were on the property, and he pointed to a fly poison (Amianthium muscitoxicum) plant, calling it a native hosta. It is a very special plant indeed.



Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) naturally
grows near water so the pond is perfect
Blazingstar (Liatris spicata) is a pop of
color against the lush native ferns





















She began to research native plants and found the Georgia Native Plant Society. She attended meetings and started going on plant rescues. Connections with people were made and her knowledge grew. She fell in love with native plants as many of us do and incorporated them into the garden that she created in her new place. For example, Trillium, pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), and broad beech fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera) create a carpet underneath a Japanese maple. Daylilies mingle with tall rue (Thalictrum pubescens), native azaleas (Rhododendron sp.), and bowman’s root (Gillenia trifoliata).
Bowman's root (Gillenia trifoliata)

A rescued native azalea (Rhododendron sp.)

Several years ago, I featured some of her talents in a blog about container gardening with native plants. Her ability to design and implement creative containers is amazing and the garden is sprinkled with them.  It’s hard to pick favorites, but the containers with pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.) are very creative and I like the ones where she's made the container herself.

Plants thrive in her garden. Several uncommon plants that she’s rescued from construction sites have not only survived, but they have thrived. This week there is bunchflower (Veratrum virginicum) blooming next to the pond. In some cases, beautiful plants like phlox and foamflower are seeding out - dare I say? - like weeds!  I simply must go back and help her with that ‘problem.’

Bunchflower (Veratrum virginicum)
Canada lily (Lilium canadense)



















The vegetable garden stands tall next to a mixed perennial bed of coneflowers, clematis, Stokes’s aster, salvia, native lilies, and hibiscus. The insects attracted to the perennials help pollinate the edibles. She pointed out the small caterpillars turning the hibiscus leaves into intricate lace forms; hopefully the birds are feeding some of those to their chicks, but the hibiscus will soon bloom regardless.

This lacy Hydrangea arborescens is a rescued plant.
A butterfly visits her coneflowers
(Echinacea purpurea)














A robust shrub border is filled with colorful native azaleas and lacy smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens), many of them from rescues. She recently reworked the front of the house, replacing flowering cherry trees with a grouping of serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.), a favorite with birds. Native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) spills happily over the brick mailbox, an invitation to hummingbirds to explore further.

American bell clematis (Clematis viorna)

If you’re thinking you’d like to add more native plants to your garden, dive in. They pair beautifully with non-native plants and vegetables too, usually helping to better attract the pollinators that you'd want for all your plants.

Adjust the mix to suit your growing preferences, as Debbie has, and enjoy it every step of the way.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Supporting Adult Butterflies in the Garden

I’ve written a few posts about butterfly gardening, but those posts have mostly focused on helping people to identify native host plants that help butterfly and moth larvae grow into the beautiful adult creatures that we love. Only one post has really touched on the concept of feeding adult butterflies; it is a post from 2014 entitled “Native Plants for Butterfly and PollinatorGardens.” It has 3 printable lists, by the way, so it’s still a keeper for planning a garden in Georgia across all 3 bloom seasons (spring, summer, and fall).

What I’ve noticed in my own garden lately is that different flowers support different types of insects. Now that might sound perfectly logical to you once I’ve said it, but how many of us consider this aspect when choosing plants for our gardens? I’ve been watching a silver spotted skipper love on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), its long proboscis easily sliding down the flower’s long tubes to get to the nectar.

Not every butterfly will partake of the wild bergamot, however. Only those insects with the ability to reach way in will be able to get the nectar (long-tongued bees, butterflies/moths with a long proboscis). The ones that can’t reach it won’t even try; they know better. Several feet away, a whole different set of insects are enjoying the flowers that they can reach: the blue hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), the black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), several kinds of Coreopsis, scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea), orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), and the phlox (Phlox sp).

Pearl crescent on Coreopsis
Coreopsis flowers are good for
short-tongued insects





















Another sight recently reinforced for me the concept that flower diversity is a concept for gardeners to consider even for the adult butterflies. A new neighborhood is under construction and, as you may expect, a splashy new entrance is the first thing they built. This one has a long and loud sweep of bright pink begonias. It looks great and really caught my attention! But floral-wise, it’s a big dud for insects except for few of them. (And given that the plants were probably grown with neonicotinoids, well it’s not too great for the ones that will visit it either.)

What to do, what to do? Research is the answer, of course, but where to start? Perhaps you’d like to have certain butterflies: common buckeye butterflies are really neat, let’s start with them (assuming they are naturally in your range, of course). To the Internet! I often use www.butterfliesandmoths.org There you can find a section called “Adult food” and for common buckeye it says:

Buckeye on Coreopsis verticillata
Adult Food: Favorite nectar sources are composites including aster, chicory, gumweed, knapweed, and tickseed sunflower. Dogbane, peppermint, and other flowers are also visited. (You have to figure from the common names what plants they mean.)

Here you’ll see that the best flowers are “composites” which are flowers in the aster family (Asteraceae); that includes the black-eyed Susan that I already have and the coreopsis as well as a wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) just starting to flower. I might also add other daisy-like flowers like fleabane (Erigeron). My aster family flowers also support butterflies like pearl crescents, skippers, Eastern tailed-blues, some of the hairstreaks, and American ladies. 

I’d also like to attract some of the larger butterflies like spicebush and tiger swallowtails. The website gives this information for native plants that the two of them use for nectar: Adult Food: Nectar from jewelweed, thistles, milkweed, azalea, dogbane, Joe-Pye weed and sweet pepperbush.  

Pipevine butterfly on Salvia coccinea
Personal observation is that they also like bottlebrush buckeye, mountain mint, purple coneflowers, and devil’s walking stick in the summer. I was thrilled this week to discover a pipevine swallowtail visiting my blue hyssop and scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea), both plants are well suited to big butterflies. By the way, a friend passed along this website as helpful with identify the large, dark-colored swallowtails.

Occasionally you might come across some startling information like this for the red-spotted purple butterfly: Adult Food: Sap flows, rotting fruit, carrion, dung, and occasionally nectar from small white flowers including Spiraea and Viburnum. A good way to support them is to put out fruit in trays; Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch in Eatonton has good luck with this approach (and it attracts a number of other species). At my house, possums seem to be the ones enjoying my fruit offerings. Another good resource on adult foods is this PDF brochure available from GA DNR.

Bottom line: If you want a diversity of adult butterflies and moths to visit your garden, you need to plant a diversity of flowering plants. A sweep of begonias isn’t going to cut it no matter how big it is. Include members of the aster family (asters, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, eupatoriums, goldenrods, blazingstars, ironweed) for the small and the short-tongued critters. Add some deep flowers (salvias, azaleas, thistles, milkweeds, cardinal flower, sweet pepperbush (Clethra)) for those that have long tongues. If you can find pesticide-free plants or seeds, also grow powerful flowering annuals like zinnias and sunflowers; they seem to support a wide range of adults.

Cloudless sulphur and tiger swallowtail are long-tongued
butterflies that use thistle (this one is a native Cirsium altissimum)
You should also plant for a variety across all 3 seasons. Flowers that feed them in the spring have gone to seed come fall. If you choose native nectar plants, many of them will also be host plants - double duty for smaller spaces.

Enhance your efforts each year by observing who visits each type of flower. For example, I planted Coreopsis tinctoria (an annual that is probably not native to Georgia), but I see very few insects on it. Next year I won’t grow it on purpose (which means it will volunteer like crazy) and will plan instead on trying something more local.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Special Plants, Special Places – Coosa Valley Prairie

Echinacea simulata
I have heard about the Coosa Valley Prairie area for years; it is a rich remnant of a tallgrass prairie that once stretched into Georgia. According to experts, these are considered calcareous prairies and defined as “Open grass- and forb-dominated communities over clayey calcareous soils that inhibit growth of woody species. Groundlayer plant species diversity is high, and includes disjunct species known primarily from midwestern prairies. Includes wet and dry prairie subtypes. These habitats require periodic fire for maintenance.”

Two weeks ago, the Georgia Botanical Society held a field trip to explore a 929-acre conservation easement on industrial pinelands that was negotiated by The Nature Conservancy.

Grand Prairie and wavyleaf purple coneflower (Echinacea simulata)
More than two dozen of these so-called “remnant prairies,” collectively known as the Coosa Valley prairies, contain over 40 rare and endangered animals and plants. They include species like the Alabama leatherflower (Clematis socialis) and the whorled sunflower (Helianthus verticillatus), both of which we were able to see in one of the wet prairies thanks to work by TNC. More abundant plants, especially in an area known as the Grand Prairie, included the wavyleaf purple coneflower (Echinacea simulata), wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium), whorled coreopsis (Coreopsis major), and an incredible assortment of milkweeds (for more on the milkweeds, see last week’s blog here.)

Our first stop was the Grand Prairie; the sweep of coneflower across the land was a breathtaking view. To a person, the reaction was one of awe. As we stood there in stunned silence, the bird calls began. Around the open area were stands of pine and the birds called from high in the trees  – summer tanager and indigo bunting were pointed out by folks who knew birds but then there was one that we all recognized – the distinctive bob-white call of a quail.

Scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa)
Mohr's Barbara's buttons
(Marshallia mohrii)





















We stayed around the field for about an hour, exploring the dry areas as well as a small wet spot. Another special plant that we came to see was Mohr’s Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia mohrii) and it was blooming nicely. This is the plant that led to the discovery of this area over 25 years ago by a curious botanist. Other beautiful blooming plants included scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa), milkweeds, verbena (Verbena simplex), snout-bean (Rhynchosia tomentosa), and New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus). The summer plants were lush with growth, and we found, among others, the thick leaves of ashy sunflower (Helianthus mollis). As we walked back to the cars, a beautiful group of colic root (Aletris farinosa) was spotted. Properly exploring this prairie would take days!

Colic root (Aletris farinosa)
Verbena simplex


















Snout-bean (Rhynchosia tomentosa) with beans forming

Clematis socialis
Our next stop was a wet prairie to check on the progress of the endangered plants that TNC was helping. While the whorled sunflower (Helianthus verticillatus) was just a healthy population of leaves, we were able to find a single flower on the Alabama leatherflower (Clematis socialis). Bright panicles of pink phlox (Phlox sp.) dotted the area and the large leaves of the prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) looked like tropical canna. Another plant grew thickly in the muck and our leader said it was the dense blazingstar (Liatris spicata). That area is going to be gorgeous in the summer!

From the wet prairie we walked through a woodland to get to another dry prairie. A bright blue bloom caught my eye near the ground; it was so similar to skullcap (we had already seen Scutellaria integrifolia near the Grand Prairie) that I assumed it was so but snapped a picture anyway. I later found out that it is nettleleaf sage (Salvia urticifolia). The amount of new plants that I saw in one day was delightful!

Phlox spp.
Nettleleaf sage (Salvia urticifolia)




















The uniqueness of special natural habitats is amazing. Thanks to those who discover them, those who work to document them, and those who work so hard to protect them. I am proud to be a monthly contributor to TNC. To find other ‘special places’ that I’ve profiled, just search for ‘special places’ in the search box on the upper left corner of the blog page.

Note: A good resource is the 'Calcareous Prairies' section in The Natural Communities of Georgia book (pages 197-200); this section uses Coosa Prairies as the basis for the description of this unique environment. A fall visit to this place, with a whole new set of flowers, would be just as interesting as a spring one.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Milkweeds of the Coosa Valley Prairies

Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
The Coosa Valley Prairies in Floyd County, GA have small patches of tallgrass prairies with species that are unique. Yesterday I participated in a Georgia Botanical Society field trip there and we explored some of the 929 acres that The Nature Conservancy has under conservation easement. I’ll cover the trip in more detail in the next blog, but one of the interesting aspects was the assortment of milkweeds found there – 6 species were observed!

Many of us have seen the bright orange milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) on the side of the road so we know milkweeds in general can handle tough, dry conditions. This area was an amazing display of 5 species thriving in the prairie: butterfly milkweed (A. tuberosa), prairie milkweed (A. hirtella), greenhorn milkweed (A. viridis), short green milkweed (A. viridiflora), and whorled milkweed (A. verticillata). We also found white milkweed (A. variegata) in the some of the surrounding woodlands.

The first one we found was the short green milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), also called green comet milkweed. Although it is very non-descript, the flowers petals and sepals remain tightly reflexed, it still serves an important ecological purpose and we were delighted to find a caterpillar on one of the plants. After I got home, I identified it as an ‘unexpected cycnia,’ a small moth (Cycnia collaris).

Asclepias viridiflora
A. viridiflora with Cycnia collaris




















Next we found the prairie milkweed (Asclepias hirtella). It has flowers clustered along the stems and long, thin leaves. The flowers are so numerous that they create a ball-shaped inflorescence. We continued to find it throughout the day, including one plant with a monarch caterpillar feeding on it. This species is only found in a few locations in Georgia, so it was exciting to be able to see it.

Prairie milkweed (Asclepias hirtella)

Aslcepias hirtella, the long view


Asclepias tuberosa 
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) was in abundance throughout the site (as well as on roadsides in Floyd County). As one of my favorite native plants, it is always a pleasure to see it and to observe the many different shades of orange that it has. This area has some especially deep orange flowers.

Asclepias verticillata












The fourth milkweed we found was one of my favorites for the day: whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata). The plant is small and slender with tiny leaves and flowers; it seems easy to overlook, but it is found throughout Georgia. The flower clusters are also along the stem like prairie milkweed, but the number of flowers in each cluster is much smaller. The pink buds opening up to creamy flowers is a very beautiful effect.

Greenhorn milkweed (Asclepias viridis)

It seemed we might be too late to see the greenhorn milkweed (Asclepias viridis) in flower because the first plant we found had two huge seedpods on it. Reported populations in Georgia are few and far between so I was anxious to see this large-flowered species. We finally did find one that was still flowering. It is a short, stocky plant with long, broad leaves and large flowers. It was an exciting find, and everyone gathered around for pictures of this single plant in flower.

The sixth and last milkweed that we found was long past flowering and not in the prairie. White milkweed (Asclepias variegata) enjoys shadier conditions than the prairie so it was in the rich woodland that we walked through to get from one area to another. All in all, a spectacular day for not just seeing milkweeds but unusual ones!