Matelea obliqua: Climbing Milkweed

Did you know that monarchs are not the only caterpillars that feed exclusively on milkweeds?  From our guest blogger and photographer, Fritz Flohr Reynolds:

Matelea obliqua, climbing or oblique milkweed, is a perennial herbaceous vine native to the eastern United States. Its range includes Washington D.C., as well as parts of Maryland and Virginia, including Fairfax county. Listed as an endangered species by the state of Maryland, Matelea obliqua, is not particularly abundant in any part of its range, and it must never be removed from the wild.

Fritz_milkweed

Matelea obliqua, climbing milkweed

In Virginia it grows in habitats such as open rocky woods and barrens, in dry to mesic conditions, over calcareous or mafic rocks. Because of these very specific habitat preferences, Matelea obliqua would probably not be an easy plant to cultivate.

Distribution of Matelea obliqua from the Digital Atlas of Virginia Flora

Distribution of Matelea obliqua from the Digital Atlas of Virginia Flora: vaplantatlas.org

The genus Matelea, along with Asclepias, and the rest of the former family Asclepiadoideae, has now been included in the Apocynaceae family, according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III system.

Matelea obliqua is known to be a host plant for Euchaetes egle, the Milkweed Tussock Moth.

Editor’s note: This moth is another insect which, just like the monarch butterfly, requires milkweed (Asclepias spp.) for a larval host plant. The tussock moth caterpillars often feed on older milkweed shoots. The monarch caterpillars (Danaus plexippus), prefer the younger shoots, so sharing is not a problem.

Fritz Flohr Reynolds was born and raised in Fairfax county, and she has extended an open invitation to our readers to explore her extensive and beautiful library of photographs on Flickr:

Clitoria mariana, flower. C & O Canal Park, Montgomery co., MD. (8/29/12)

Cypripedium acaule, Prince William Forest Park, 5-9-13

Comments

  1. William Smith says:

    Are there any programs to encourage individuals and businesses to leave open areas available for native wildflowers for bees and butterflies?

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