Sated on Purple Butterfly Weed

Ron Russell

Newport, United States

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Canon S4 IS
Campbell County, Kentucky
Bumblebee enjoying the sweet nectar of purple butterfly weed.
I love when I see this not very common wildflower in an open field. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it without bees, butterflys or other insect enjoying its sweet nectar.
Description: This native perennial plant is 2-6’ tall and unbranched. The leaves are dull green, up to 8" long and 3½" wide, oblong or oval in shape, and mostly oppositely arranged on the central stem. There is a prominent central vein along the length of each leaf, and finer side veins that radiate outward toward the smooth margins. When either the central stem or leaves are torn, a milky sap oozes out that has variable toxicity in the form of cardiac glycosides. Umbels of flowers, each about 3-4" across, emerge from the axils of the upper leaves. These flowers are quite fragrant, with a scent resembling violets or pansies, and they range in color from faded light pink to reddish purple. Each flower is about ¼" across, with 5 reflexed petals that occasionally entrap the legs of insects, and 5 raised hoods with a horn arising in the middle. The blooming period lasts about a month from early to mid-summer. The seedpods are 3-4" long, rather fat and covered with soft prickles, and they split along one side when mature to release numerous seeds that are individually equipped with large white tufts of hair. Dispersion of seed is by wind. The root system has long creeping rhizomes, promoting the vegetative spread of this plant.

Descrition was found here: Weedy Wildflowers of Illinois

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