Named for the toxic milky substance that leaks out when damaged, milkweed is a perennial flowering plant with a lot to offer. Its fibers (known as floss) have been used for insulation, pillow stuffing, string, rope, and more. Meanwhile, its flowers provide a great source of nectar for a variety of pollinators.
But its most crucial role is serving as the birthing ground for monarch butterflies.
The monarch butterfly exclusively lays its eggs on milkweed. Once these eggs hatch into caterpillars, the milkweed offers both protection and nourishment. The toxicity of milkweed actually plays a vital part in the lifecycle of monarch butterfly.
Rather than being killed by the milkweed’s poison, the larvae absorb it and become poisonous themselves. This provides them with lifelong protection against would-be predators.
By including milkweed in your CRP plan, you can provide a home to the monarch butterfly and promote pollinator diversity. This is not only great for your lands, but the world as a whole.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right type of milkweed.
Selecting the Right Milkweed for CRP
Milkweed is not a specific species of plant but a genus. Within that genus, there are over 100 types of milkweed. So, which is right for you? It depends. With CRP, there are restrictions on what species are available depending on your conservation plan and where you live.
You’ll need to make sure the milkweed you choose has a local ecotype to ensure successful germination. On top of that, as with selecting any CRP seed, it’s important to consider bloom period and color when choosing milkweed. Different species of milkweed can bloom at different times and blossom into a range of colors.
Common milkweed (asclepias syriaca), for example, typically blooms in early to midsummer with flowers that range from pink to purple. If you were choosing this type of milkweed, you would want to balance it out with plants featuring at least two other colors for that bloom period.
(For more information on the importance of bloom periods and colors, make sure to check out our previous post here.)
Of course, we’re more than happy to help you in selecting and buying CRP seed mixes. At All Native Seed, we offer a wide variety of high-quality seed mixes to meet the goals and requirements for your CRP establishment.
If you’re interested in our own NRCS approved seed mixes, click here. If you’d like to select from mixes designed by NRCS, click here.
And if you’re not exactly sure where to begin, feel free to call us at 888-224-2004 or email us at email@example.com. We’ll make sure you get the right seed for your situation.