MILKWEED FAMILY - Aselepiadaceae: Butterfly-weed; Pleurisy-root; Orange-root; Orange Milkweed
Flowers--Bright reddish orange, in many-flowered, terminal clusters, each flower similar in structure to the common milkweed (see above). Stem: Erect, 1 to 2 ft. tall, hairy, leafy, milky juice scanty. Leaves: Usually all alternate, lance-shaped, seated on stem. Fruit: A pair of erect, hoary pods, 2 to 5 in. long, 1 at least containing silky plumed seeds.
Preferred Habitat--Dry or sandy fields, hills, roadsides.
Distribution--Maine and Ontario to Arizona, south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Intensely brilliant clusters of this the most ornamental of all native milkweeds set dry fields ablaze with color. Above them butterflies hover, float, alight, sip, and sail away--the great dark, velvety, pipe-vine swallow-tail (Papilio philenor), its green-shaded hind wings marked with little white half moons; the yellow and brown, common, Eastern swallow-tail (P. asterias), that we saw about the wild parsnip and other members of the carrot family; the exquisite, large, spice-bush swallow-tail, whose bugaboo caterpillar startled us when we unrolled a leaf of its favorite food supply; the small, common, white cabbage butterfly (Pieris protodice); the even more common little sulphur butterflies, inseparable from clover fields and mud puddles; the painted lady that follows thistles around the globe; the regal fritillary (Argynnis idalia), its black and fulvous wings marked with silver crescents, a gorgeous creature developed from the black and orange caterpillar that prowls at night among violet plants; the great spangled fritillary of similar habit; the bright fulvous and black pearl crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos), its small wings usually seen hovering about the asters; the little grayish-brown, coral hairstreak (Thecla titus), and the bronze copper (Chrysophanus thoŽ), whose caterpillar feeds on sorrel (Rumex); the delicate, tailed blue butterfly (Lycena comyntas,) with a wing expansion of only an inch from tip to tip; all these visitors duplicated again and again--these and several others that either escaped the net before they were named, or could not be run down, were seen one bright midsummer day along a Long Island roadside bordered with butterfly weed. Most abundant of all was still another species, the splendid monarch (Anosia plexippus), the most familiar representative of the tribe of milkweed butterflies. It is said the Indians used the tuberous root of this plant for various maladies, although they could scarcely have known that because of the alleged healing properties of the genus Linnaeus dedicated it to Aesculapius, of whose name Asklepios is the Greek form.