Pollinator Week may be over, but we must think about Aesclepias and Lobelia cardinalis every week – along with other flowers that will attract pollinators.
We are all familiar with the common milkweeds of the field that bloom, and the flowers that produce green seed pods turning brown as they mature. When mature the pod will split open and we can see 50-100 seeds, each seed attached to a white, fluffy ‘coma’ or parachute that can send the sees off to plant itself.
Aesclepias tuberosa is a smaller plant, about one to two feet with an equal spread. The bloom is a brilliant yellow/orange color. Those brilliant flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and the leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae, otherwise known as caterpillars. Like the common milkweed, the flowers make spindle shaped pods that will split open and the seeds, with their fluffy tails, will fly away.
The A.tuberosa has thrived in my garden which is very wet. It can even be used in a rain garden.
Cardinal flowers join the A. tuberosa in my garden and it is getting to be a crowded spot. Both plants are increasing themselves. The cardinal flowers also love water and can be used in a rain garden. Hummingbirds love sipping nectar from those flaming flowers, as do butterflies.
I recently read that the name cardinalis does not refer to the cardinal bird, but a reference to the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. I do wonder how plants get their names. Oh, well. The L. cardinalis in my garden are mostly a brilliant scarlet, but there have been a few that are a soft white with a tinge of pink.
The Asclepias tuberosa and the Lobelia cardinalis mingle a bit in my garden. They have both increased with a surprising energy. It is easy to dig them up in the spring, or in the fall, if you wish to move the plants or share them with others.