Plant of the Week: Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly milkweed is a native of the eastern United States and Canada that’s a favorite among butterflies and other pollinators.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, is a bright orange sun-loving flower native to the eastern United States and Canada. It is named for its strong relationship with butterflies – both as a food plant for the caterpillars of Queen and Monarch butterflies and as an abundant nectar source for adults. You might also catch hummingbirds, bees, and other insects enjoying its blooms.

This time of year, Monarch butterflies selectively lay their eggs on members of the milkweed family, like butterfly milkweed. Soon, you might see little black-, white-, and yellow-striped caterpillars eating the leaves of this plant. The chemical properties of milkweed plants are what make Monarch caterpillars and adult butterflies foul-tasting and poisonous to predators.

Later in the season, seed pods will form on the butterfly milkweed plants at the High Line. As the seeds mature, the pods will open revealing light fuzzy seeds that will spread in the wind.

All along the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street.

Download our June bloom guide.

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