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Fewflower Milkweed
fewflower milkweed
Fewflower milkweed, photographed at Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, Miami-Dade County, in April 2015.
fewflower milkweed

Two things stand out about fewflower milkweed, Asclepias lancelota. The first is how it stands out. The bright red and yellow flowers loudly announce fewflower's presence, even at a distance. The plant above were no closer than 20 or 30 feet from the edge of the road, but against the drab browns and greens of a wet prairie, they're difficult to miss.

The second thing is how sparse the plant is. There is nary a leaf in sight, the flower stalk towering above any other vegetation.

Fewflower milkweed is a Florida native found throughout the southeastern United States as far west as Texas and as far north as New Jersey. It is found in all but a handful of Florida's 67 counties. It's one of 24 milkweed species found in the Sunshine State, 14 of which are found in South Florida.

Fewflower milkweed grows in wet habitats, wet pinelands and marl prairies. It does not tolerate drought but likes full sun. Its brilliant flowers appear in the spring and summer, star-shaped typical of milkweeds. The flowers aren't large but appear in small clusters that amplify each bloom spectacularly. The flowers produce capsules filled with whispy seeds that are dispersed by wind, also typical of milkweeds.

The plant itself grows to about two or three feet tall, taller than it is wide. If you can get close enough, you'll find the leaves are long and thin — lance-shaped. In fact, that's inspiration for one fewflower milkweed's other common names.

fewflower milkwed

Despite its wide range, the Institute for Regional Conservation classifies fewflower milkweed as rare in South Florida. No state or federal agency lists it as either threatened or endangered, however.

Fewflower milkweed is a host plant for both the monarch and queen butterflies, not surprisingly. Both butterflies are part of a group that specializes in using milkweeds as host plants, using the chemicals they contain as a defense mechanism. Soldier butterflies also might use the plant as a host. Both the monarch and queen feed off the flowers as adults, as do other butterflies.

Fewflower milkweed is cultivated, used mainly for butterfly gardens. Its also used in restorations and natural landscapes.

Fewflower milkweed is a member of Apocynaceae, a family mainly of trees and shrubs with milky sap. Other names include lance-leaved milkweed and orange milkweed.

Photographs by David Sedore
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Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.