Milkweed flowers wilting.

SPedigrees

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I have many "wild"areas on my property where I allow/encourage the growth of various native wildflowers, both for their own sake as well as for the wildlife that they support, native milkweed among them. This year all of the purple flower heads on the milkweed are wilting, instead of forming seed pods. I've never seen anything like it! This is extremely disturbing, and I suspect some kind of insect pest. None of these plants will be able to re-seed this year, and I fear an impending mass extinction. Does anyone have any ideas?
 

flowerbug

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i thought milkweed was a perennial? i know the tuberosa is. the regular milkweed seems to have roots that can travel quite a ways to pop up new plants. i'll let it grow along the NE corner where the tuberosa is - it seems to stay around there, but i don't let it grow in any of the more formal garden beds. i just don't want yet another invasive to deal with if that's what it turns into...
 

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I looked them up, and it seems that milkweeds are indeed perennial, so that is reassuring. They produce so many seeds each fall that I just assumed they re-seeded themselves each year. This year they won't be, unfortunately, but I guess it won't be the end of the species.
 

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:)

do you have the orange butterfly weed (tuberosa)? if not i usually can harvest seeds and send them.
 

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No, these are the wild native milkweed, the kind that monarch butterflies use for reproduction. Some pictures of them in former (better) years:
MonarchButterflyOnMilkweed18July2012.jpg


MilkweedSeeds24Sep2016.JPG


Thank you very much for the kind offer of seeds, but I'm sort of afraid of the other varieties, since I've heard that monarchs attempt to lay their eggs on these plants and the caterpillars do not survive. I expect that this year both the milkweed and monarch populations are going to be suffering here. Seed production as seen above won't be happening this year.

I'm hoping that this wilting disease will run its course and the milkweed will bounce back.
 

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oh, ok. :)

i've not seen many monarch butterflies around here the past several years, but i do leave some milkweeds growing around the edges just in case some do show up.
 

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oh, ok. :)

i've not seen many monarch butterflies around here the past several years, but i do leave some milkweeds growing around the edges just in case some do show up.
Yeah, their numbers have sadly fallen off in recent years here too.

A very odd, but promising, thing I noticed on our walk today, is that seed pods seem to be forming amongst the wilted flower heads.
 

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Has it been a dry spell? Could perk up with rain. Or this is normal and just not noticed before!
 

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Has it been a dry spell? Could perk up with rain. Or this is normal and just not noticed before!
I have been asking myself both questions. It has been dry here the past few weeks, but nothing approaching drought conditions. It is raining today and rain is predicted all this week, so I guess we'll see if this makes a difference. On our walk yesterday my husband asked the same thing - "Did we just not notice this before?" - but both our memories are of the flower heads retaining their shape as the florets dropped off, much like allium flower heads. It is a pity that I have no photos from previous years of the spent flowers, but then I tend to photograph blooms at their peak, rather than after they have gone by.

I did get these two pictures today. The first is one of the few "normal" milkweed plants with a tiger swallowtail visiting a flower in bloom and a normal gone-to-seed head on the same stalk, as I remember them from past years. The second is one of the many plants suffering from the droops. The only encouraging thing about it is the formation of seed pods that show in the lower photo. I guess time will tell.

MilkweedTigerSwallowtail21July2018aCrop.JPG


MilkweedFlowersWiltingWithPods21July2018Crop.JPG
 
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flowerbug

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from that picture i would just say it is a normal consequence of not much pollination. flowers that don't get pollinated will wither and shrink. the lack of butterflies visiting since you are seeing so few is the other fitting observation to the puzzle. but we'll see. i'll hope they come through and you get some pods/seeds. :)
 
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