Botanical Name: Asclepias variegata
Common Name: White Milkweed, Redring Milkweed, Variegated Milkweed
Description: All of the milkweed species I sell are Florida ecotype plants that my suppliers grow in the North Central region of Florida. I use no pesticides on my milkweeds, neither do my suppliers.
This beautiful milkweed is yet one more of Florida’s amazing native milkweeds.
Redring milkweed is a native perennial wildflower in the Apocynaceae family. It is readily recognized as a milkweed by the typical horns and hoods flower features. However, its horns are turned inwards. Small, waxy, white flowers dotted with reddish, pinkish, to purplish coloring in the center form a large, round, snowball-like cluster that blooms in May-July. The flowers have a sweet fragrance. They are quite showy when planted in masses. This low maintenance plant reaches a mature size of 1 – 3′ tall and wide. The most rapid growth and development occurs during the spring after the danger of hard frost has passed. The 4-6 pairs of opposite leaves are 3-5″ long x 1-3″ wide with a smooth margin and pale underside. One or two Inflated, but narrow, upright seed pods (follicles) with fluffy wind-dispersed seeds mature in the late summer. The fruits of this plant resemble those of purple milkweed (A. purpurascens) and poke milkweed (A. exaltata). Broken leaves and stems produce milky latex. This species, like most milkweeds, has a deep root stock that helps the plant survive fire and drought. Redring milkweed attracts predatory or parasitoid insects that prey on pest insects, which means it’s great for Integrated Pest Management.
Native habitat for it is moist to dry open upland forests and woodland edge habitats, sandy open ground, ravine bottoms, low woods, slopes, ridges, and roadsides. It grows best in part sun to part shade areas.
The copious amount of nectar in the showy flowers attracts butterflies including Monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies, skippers, and possibly moths. The flowers are very attractive to honey bees, native bees, and bumble bees, and wasps. Redring milkweed is not an important host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, but they do munch on it sometimes. One theory for that is it tends to be in low densities and in some shade and this may make it harder for monarchs to find it.
Redring milkweed is very deer and rabbit resistant because the bitter white sap of the foliage contains toxic cardiac glycosides so it is avoided by mammalian herbivores.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 6-15″ tall.
Plant Lore: The genus name, Asclepias, commemorates Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine. Some of the milkweed species have a history of medicinal use including common milkweed, A. syriaca (wart removal and lung diseases), and butterfly weed, A. tuberosa (also known as “pleurisy root”, for pleurisy and other lung disease). The specific epithet, variegata, means ‘variegated’ in reference to the two colors on the flowers. The common name of Redring Milkweed comes from the reddish ring around the base of each flower.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 9