Maine to Louisiana.
Flowers: perfect; regular; growing in terminal umbels. Calyx: of five sepals, the tube very short. Corolla; funnel-form, with five reflexed lobes that nearly hide the sepals. The next inner row of upright bodies are hoods, or nectaries that enclose live little incurved horns; and under these horns are the stamens and pistils. Stamens: five, with fringed tips that are not the anthers united and enclosing the pistils. Anthers: attached to the short filaments by their bases. Pollen: in distinct little masses; two being attached together by a thread. Pistils: two; united above into a flat, sticky disk. Fruit; a pair of pods with numerous seeds and soft, silky hairs; seldom more than one becoming fully developed. Leaves: narrow; oblong; somewhat heart-shaped at base. Stem: two to three feet high; very leafy; smooth, with little milky juice.
Of this very striking and handsome family Professor Britton says: "There are about 220 genera and 1900 species of very wide distribution."
The flowers are difficult, but not impossible, for the non-botanist to analyse; and the attempt will at all events pique one's curiosity enough to encourage him to pry closely into their intricacies.
The milkweeds are entirely dependent on insects for fertilization; as the pollen masses lie too low in the blossoms to reach the stigma. It is for this reason that they have provided themselves with the little hoods that hold the nectar, as it could not be retained by the reflexed corolla lobes. Bees, therefore, visit the plants gladly, and when their feet become entangled in the tiny thread that holds together the pollen masses they carry them off without complaining.
A. Syriaca, page 280, Plate Cxliv.
A. lanceolate (Plate XXXIII) is a brilliant variety of the swamps that occurs southward from New Jersey to Florida and Texas. The umbels have but few flowers, very large and showy, and are of an intense orange-red colour. It blooms in July and August.