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Overview

Comprehensive Description

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This small milkweed blooms later in the year than most milkweed species (Asclepias spp.), and its small umbels of flowers attract many kinds of insects, including butterflies. Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) superficially resembles the common Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) because of its whorled linear leaves. It can be distinguished from this latter species by the milky latex of its foliage and the later development of its flowers and seedpods. Field Horsetail is a spore-bearing plant that lacks true flowers. Whorled Milkweed is readily distinguished from other milkweed species in Illinois by its more narrow leaves (only 2-3 mm. across). Narrow-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias stenophylla) is an exception, because its linear leaves are almost as narrow. However, this latter species has leaves that are alternate to nearly opposite along its stems, rather than whorled. So far, it has been found in only a few counties of western Illinois.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This perennial herbaceous plant is ½–2' tall and more or less erect; it is either unbranched or sparingly branched along the upper half of its central stem. The central stem is yellowish green or medium green and terete; it has vertical lines of short pubescence. Whorls of 4-6 leaves occur along the nodes of the central stem; because the internodes of this stem are fairly short, these leaves are produced in abundance. Relative to the orientation of the central stem, the leaves are usually ascending, although sometimes they are widely spreading or drooping. The leaves are 2-3" long, 2-3 mm. across, and linear in shape; their margins are entire (toothless) and strongly revolute (rolled downward). Sometimes whorls of smaller secondary leaves are produced from short lateral stems that develop from the axils of leaves along the central stem. The upper leaf surfaces are yellowish green or medium green and glabrous to sparsely short-pubescent; they are narrowly grooved along the middle where the midribs occur. The lower leaf surfaces are whitish green and short-pubescent; they are partially obscured by the rolled leaf margins. The leaves are sessile or they have very short petioles (less than 2 mm. long). From the axils of middle to upper leaves, umbels of flowers are produced on short peduncles (flowering stalks); there can be 1-4 umbels of flowers at each node. Individual umbels span ¾–1½" across, consisting of 7-20 pedicellate flowers. Each flower is about 5-6 mm. across and 8-10 mm. long, consisting of 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 hoods with horns, and a central reproductive column. The sepals are light green, short-pubescent, and lanceolate in shape; sometimes they are tinted purple toward their tips. These sepals are visible at the bases of flower buds, but they are hidden by the petals when the flowers bloom. The petals are white or greenish white, sometimes with pale purplish tints toward their tips; they are oblong-elliptic in shape and strongly declined (bent downward), curving slightly upward toward their tips. The erect white hoods are open-tubular in shape and somewhat oblique, their lower sides facing the center of the flower. The slender white horns are sickle-shaped and inwardly curved; there is one exserted horn per hood. The short reproductive column is white at its apex and light green below. The slender pedicels of the flowers are light green to nearly white, sometimes becoming purplish at their bases; they are 8-12 mm. long, terete, and short-pubescent. The peduncles are ½–1½" long, light to medium green, glabrous to short-pubescent, terete, and ascending. The blooming period occurs from early to late summer, lasting about 1-2 months. There is little or no floral scent. Afterwards, successfully cross-pollinated flowers are replaced by ascending to erect follicles (seedpods that open along one side). These follicles are 3-4" long and about ½" across; they are narrowly lanceoloid in shape and fairly smooth (lacking warts or soft prickles). At maturity during autumn or winter, these follicles split open to release their seeds to the wind. Mature seeds are about 4-5 mm. long, ovate-flattened in shape, brown, and narrowly winged along their margins; their apices have large tufts of white hair. The root system is fleshy-fibrous and long-rhizomatous. Colonies of clonal plants are often produced from the rhizomes. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Whorled Milkweed occurs occasionally throughout most of Illinois, except for a few southern counties (see Distribution Map), where it is rare or absent. Habitats include upland prairies, sand prairies, gravel prairies, hill prairies, openings in rocky upland forests, sandy savannas, limestone glades, rocky bluffs along major rivers, bluegrass meadows, pastures and abandoned fields, grassy slopes along highways, and waste areas. Whorled Milkweed is a pioneer species that prefers open disturbed areas. Faunal Associations
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Whorled Milkweed occurs occasionally throughout most of Illinois, except for a few southern counties (see Distribution Map), where it is rare or absent. Habitats include upland prairies, sand prairies, gravel prairies, hill prairies, openings in rocky upland forests, sandy savannas, limestone glades, rocky bluffs along major rivers, bluegrass meadows, pastures and abandoned fields, grassy slopes along highways, and waste areas. Whorled Milkweed is a pioneer species that prefers open disturbed areas. Faunal Associations
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Whorled Milkweed in Illinois

Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed)
(Insects suck nectar; some observations are from Robertson, otherwise they are from Betz, Moure & Hurd, Hilty, Grundel & Pavlovic, Willson & Bertin, and Swengel & Swengel as indicated below)

With pollinia:

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis fq, Bombus impatiens, Psithyrus citrinus; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla fq; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Triepeolus lunatus concolor; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata fq; Megachilidae (Coelioxini): Coelioxys octodentata; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis brevis fq; Megachilidae (Trypetini): Heriades variolosa variolosa

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochloropsis metallica metallica, Halictus confusus, Halictus rubicunda, Lasioglossum forbesii, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus, Lasioglossum versatus; Halictidae (Sphecodini): Sphecodes dichroa, Sphecodes stygius; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis

Wasps
Sphecidae (Astatinae): Astata unicolor; Sphecidae (Bembicinae): Bembix nubilipennis; Sphecidae (Crabroninae): Anacrabro ocellatus, Ectemnius rufifemur fq; Sphecidae (Larrinae): Tachytes aurulenta, Tachytes distinctus, Tachytes pepticus fq; Sphecidae (Philanthinae): Cerceris bicornuta, Cerceris clypeata fq, Cerceris compacta fq, Cerceris frontata, Cerceris rufopicta, Eucerceris fulvipes; Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Isodontia apicalis, Prionyx thomae, Sphex ichneumonea fq, Sphex pensylvanica fq; Vespidae: Polistes fuscata; Vespidae (Eumeninae): Eumenes fraterna, Euodynerus annulatus fq, Euodynerus foraminatus, Stenodynerus anormis; Tiphiidae: Myzinum quinquecincta fq; Scoliidae: Scolia bicincta; Pompilidae: Anoplius illinoensis, Anoplius lepidus, Cryptocheilus terminatus, Entypus fulvicornis, Poecilopompilus algidus

Sawflies
Argidae: Arge humeralis

Flies
Mydidae: Mydas clavatus; Syrphidae: Eristalis latifrons, Syritta pipiens, Tropidia quadrata; Conopidae: Physocephala texana, Physocephala tibialis; Tachinidae: Archytas analis, Cylindromyia euchenor, Euclytia flava, Linnaemya comta, Spallanzania hesperidarum, Xanthomelanodes arcuatus; Sarcophagidae: Sphixapata trilineata fq; Muscidae: Neomyia cornicina; Calliphoridae: Cochliomyia macellaria, Phormia regina

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Polites peckius, Staphylus hayhurstii

Without pollinia:

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus pensylvanica

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea, Lasioglossum albipennis, Lasioglossum imitatus; Halictidae (Sphecodini): Sphecodes cressonii

Wasps
Sphecidae (Crabroninae): Lestica confluentus, Oxybelus mexicanus; Sphecidae (Philanthinae): Cerceris finitima; Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila nigricans, Prionyx atrata, Sceliphron caementaria; Sapygidae: Sapyga interrupta; Chrysididae: Holopyga ventrale

Flies
Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua, Eristalis arbustorum, Eristalis transversus, Orthonevra nitida, Paragus bicolor, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Toxomerus marginatus, Toxomerus politus; Empidae: Empis clausa; Bombyliidae: Exoprosopa fasciata, Systoechus vulgaris; Conopidae: Physoconops brachyrhynchus; Tachinidae: Copecrypta ruficauda, Gnadochaeta globosa, Gymnoclytia occidua, Paradidyma spinosula, Phasia purpurascens, Plagiomima spinosula, Siphoplagia flaccidirostris (Robertson, MS), Trichopoda pennipes; Sarcophagidae: Gymnoprosopa polita, Helicobia rapax, Sarcophaga sinuata, Senotainia rubriventris; Muscidae: Graphomya americana, Limnophora narona; Anthomyiidae: Calythea nigricans; Sepsidae: Sepsis violacea

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Phyciodes tharos, Speyeria cybele, Vanessa atalanta; Lycaenidae: Everes comyntas; Lycaena hyllus; Pieridae: Colias philodice, Pieris rapae; Papilionidae: Papilio cresphontes

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Achalarus lyciades, Pholisora catullus, Polites themistocles, Pompeius verna

Moths
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis

Beetles
Cerambycidae: Typocerus sinuatus; Rhipiphoridae: Macrosiagon limbata; Scarabaeidae (Cetonniae): Trichiotinus piger

Plant Bugs
Phymatidae: Phymata fasciatus prd

Pollinia Presence Unspecified:

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera fq (Btz, WB); Apidae (Bombinae): Bombus bimaculatus (WB), Bombus griseocallis (Btz, WB), Bombus impatiens (WB), Bombus pensylvanica (WB), Bombus terricola (WB); Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile latimanus (Btz)

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Lasioglossum pectoralis (MH); Colletidae (Colletinae): Colletes compactus (Btz)

Wasps
Sphecidae (Bembicinae): Bembix nubilipennis (Btz); Sphecidae (Larrinae): Tachytes aurulenta (Btz); Sphecidae (Philanthinae): Cerceris sp. (WB); Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Prionyx atrata fq (Btz, WB), Sphex ichneumonea (Btz, H, WB), Sphex pensylvanica (Btz); Tiphiidae: Myzinum quinquecincta fq (Btz, WB); Vespidae: Polistes fuscata fq (Btz, WB); Ichneumonidae: Ceratogastra ornata (Btz)

Flies
Tachinidae: Archytas apicifer (WB)

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus (WB), Junonia coenia (H), Phyciodes tharos (WB), Vanessa cardui (H); Lyacenidae: Everes comyntas (H), Lycaeides melissa samuelis (GP, Sw); Pieridae: Pieris rapae fq (WB)

Moths
Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis fq (WB); Noctuidae: Agrotis ipsilon (WB), Anagrapha falcifera (WB), Autographa precationis (WB), Caenurgina sp. (WB); Sesiidae: Melittia cucurbitae (H)

Beetles
Cantharidae: Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus fq (H, WB)

Plant Bugs
Lygaeidae: Lygaeus kalmii (WB)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Asclepias verticillata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Wikipedia

Asclepias verticillata

Asclepias verticillata flower cluster.jpg

Asclepias verticillata (whorled milkweed, eastern whorled milkweed, horsetail milkweed) is a species of milkweed native to most all of eastern North America and parts of western Canada and the United States.[1]

Description[edit]

This is a perennial herb with a single stem 1 to 3 feet tall. The very narrow, linear leaves are arranged in whorls. The inflorescence is a cluster of many greenish white flowers.[2]

Ecology[edit]

This species can reproduce vegetatively and does not depend on pollinators, but it does produce some nectar, mostly in the early evening hours. Insect visitors to the plant include wasps, honeybees, and lepidopterans such as moths and the Cabbage White.[3]

The plant is toxic to livestock.[2]

Uses[edit]

It was used as a medicinal plant by Native American peoples. The Choctaw used it to treat snakebite, the Lakota and Hopi used it to increase breast milk in nursing mothers, and the Navajo used it for nose and throat problems.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Asclepias verticillata. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  2. ^ a b Asclepias verticillata. Native Plant Database. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. University of Texas at Austin. 2013.
  3. ^ Willson, M. F., et al. (1979). Nectar production and flower visitors of Asclepias verticillata. American Midland Naturalist 102(1) 23-35.
  4. ^ Asclepias verticillata. Native American Ethnobotany. University of Michigan, Dearborn.


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