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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - February 09, 2008

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Looking for leaves of milkweed plants for experiment
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am an undergraduate chemistry student at the University of Portland and want to perform an experiment using milkweed leaves. How would I get milkweed leaves at this time of year? Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

I am assuming that you want just any species of the Genus Asclepias and not a particular milkweed species. There are three species of Asclepias that are found in Oregon—Asclepias fascicularis (Mexican whorled milkweed), Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed), and Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed). It is too early in the year to find any of these growing in the wild in Oregon. The same situation holds for any milkweed species growing in Texas or elsewhere in the South. Your best bet, I think, is to find a nursery in your area that either has seeds that you can purchase to grow your own plants or that has young plants growing. You can find in our National Suppliers Directory a listing of nurseries and seed companies in your area that specialize in native plants. We also have a listing of Associates who offer a discount to members of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In a quick search, I found that Alpine WildSeed in Ellensburg, Washington has Asclepias speciosa seeds listed for sale. Also, Nothing But Northwest Natives Nursery in Woodland Washington has A. speciosa plants listed for sale. The Native Seed Network lists other Northwest sources for the seed of A. speciosa.

Other possibilities are the greenhouses of public gardens such as Leach Botanical Garden and the Berry Botanic Garden in Portland, the Oregon Garden in Silverton or University of Washington Botanic Gardens in Seattle. Since you are doing a university research project, it might be possible that they would be able to furnish you with a few young plants if they are growing them in their greenhouses. There are other botanical gardens in or near Portland that you could locate by Googling "botanical gardens Oregon".

Finally, since both A. speciosa and A. syriaca are listed as caterpillar and nectar hosts for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) you might check with Monarch Watch and the Monarch Butterfly Website for sources of milkweed plants. Additionally, the Oregon Zoo in Portland has a butterfly exhibit, Winged Wonders, and might possibly have a supply, or know of a supplier, of milkweed.


Asclepias fascicularis

Asclepias speciosa

Asclepias syriaca

 

 

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