Donna Winter (Class of 2016) pointed at a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) along Olso Road at the very end of the first session of the 2016 Volunteer Nature Stewardship Class. Shown above are monarch butterfly caterpillars (larvae) feeding upon non-native tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) at the Central Florida Palm and Cycad Society meeting in Winter Haven on 12-12-2015.
The yard owner believed the milkweed to be native, but, unfortunately, this weedy exotic milkweed may be detrimental to the monarch butterfly population, according to Dr. Jaret Daniels, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, and Associate Curator and Program Director, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity.
Ever-growing populations of this weedy plant in the Deep South may disrupt monarch migration and contribute to higher populations of a lethal protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). Click here to read about an article about this issue on the Florida Wildflower Foundation website that includes native milkweed recommendations.
The caterpillars pictured above were feeding on what is sold as Silky Gold Milkweed …
It is a cultivar of the usually orange and yellow milkweed often commonly called scarlet milkweed, pictured below with a female monarch and a male julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) nectaring upon it along Oslo Road in 2008.
Non-native scarlet or tropical milkweed, whatever you may call it or whatever colors it may be, produces prodigious amounts of wind-borne seeds.
If this plant is in your yard (or volunteers) in your yard, you may wish to replace it with a native milkweed.