Longleaf Milkweed, Beach Botany


The longleaf Milkweed, Ascepias longifolia, is a herbaceous perennial, that grows in wet  pinelands and prairies in Atlantic, Gulf and Panhandle coastal counties. Like all of the species of the Genus Asclepias, longifolia is an obligate host of the Monarch butterfly larva. Longifolia has a slender, un-branched stem that reaches a height of 4’ to 5’. Leaves are arranged in an alternate order along the stem. Stem is pubescent. Sessile leaves are simple, linear to lanceolate in shape. Length  2” to 7” and ½” in width. Margins are entire.

Flowers are grouped in a cluster of 20 to 30 blooms all growing from a single point on the stem. An umbel is the inflorescence. The corolla has five greenish white petals with a purple tinge. Petals droop downward. At the middle of the corolla is a large sticky female stigma connected to two fused female pistils. Surrounding the stigma are five curved appendages called hoods. Hoods are a form of sterile male stamens. In the walls of the hoods are nectar glands. Attached to each hood is hook. When a pollinator lands on a flower and goes after the nectar glands, the hook traps the pollinator so that a struggle ensues and a sticky pollen gets stuck on a leg. The pollinator then flies to a flower on another plant. Going for the nectar the sticky pollen drops off the pollinators  leg into a sticky stigma and fertilization takes place

The specimen in the picture was found in the Everglades  National  Park.


Photo by James Rodwell