Saturday, August 7, 2010

Milkweed roots

I've just posted my second in a series of posts over at Franklin Matters on plants that are native to my town. This one was on milkweed. The previous post was on pinesap.

I'm really getting into this whole writing-for-my-local-community thing! It gives me an opportunity to have some positive involvement in my community even though I don't typically have the time to be involved in person. It's volunteer work, but at my convenience.

To go along with that post on milkweed, here's something nifty that my husband dug up:

That, on the ground next to my husband, who obediently flopped down to be my measuring stick, is a milkweed plant, and its long, long root. This answered a question about milkweed that I had been wondering:

Is that patch of milkweed a clump of individual plants, or several stems sprouting up from a single root?

Indeed, milkweed grows multiple stems from a single root. This plant had two big stems that flowered this summer. . .

. . .and look at the buds along the root! This root had been running horizontally beneath wood chips. The dozens and dozens of buds each represent a new stalk that would have grown late this summer, or possibly next year, being a perennial plant.

What else did this root tell me? Common milkweed may be a troublemaker in a formal flower bed. This one innocent-seeming plant was preparing to put up new growth seven feet away from where it had started. But that same running feature makes it a great candidate for meadow beds, because one well-established plant will potentially become a wide colony. Now, if I can just convince more people to convert their lawn into meadow!


Diana said...

wow. Great photo to illustrate the length of those roots. I wish I did have space for a meadow but my long term plan is to eliminate the grass except for a play area for the dogs and for visiting children. So I guess I'll stick with Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) and A. incanata (swamp milkweed) the better "behaved" milkweeds.

Pam J. said...


Gloria said...

Great picture. Those running roots of milkweed are competing well with goldenrod and ironweed and a tall thick switchgrass in a section of our garden.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am creating a website on milkweed for my biology class at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. I was wondering if I could get your permission to use the milkweed root pictures on my website. Please email me at as soon as possible. Thank you, Breanna

Anonymous said...

Great photo! I, too, am interested in using your photo for a talk I am giving about milkweeds. My email address is Thanks!