Native milkweeds are most commonly found in the wild. Some are easy to locate, transplant and/or cultivate, while others are not. All native milkweeds are becoming more scarce in the wild as the result of severe weather conditions such as drought, land development and the widespread use of herbicides. Wholesale habitat destruction and, specifically, the disappearance of native milkweeds may be the greatest challenge Monarchs face for survival. In order to give Monarchs a fighting chance, we need to reverse this trend and restore the native landscape, wherever possible.
In deep south Texas, our most common native milkweed is the Zizotes Milkweed (Asclepias oenortheroides). It is locally referred to as ‘Hierba de Zizotes’, as well as Prairie milkweed, Longhorn milkweed, Side-cluster milkweed, Primrose milkweed and Lindheimer's milkweed.
Finding the appropriate native milkweeds in a nursery can be confusing when these highly-regional plants all seem to have highly-regional common names. For help identifying milkweed species that may be found in your region, try iNaturalist for crowdsource identification, or the USDA ‘map of milkweed’. Write down the scientific name of the species (usually shown in parenthesis and italicized,) before you go shopping as this will make finding the right milkweed at the farmer’s market or local nursery much easier.
To complicate matters further, native milkweeds can be difficult to propagate and may not be available for sale. For this reason, the National Butterfly Center and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge System are working together to survey lands for our Zizotes and other native milkweeds, collect seed for germination, establish a native milkweed seed bank, and propagate 10,000 seedlings for transplant in the Southernmost Monarch Waystation, a project funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.
CAUTION: Milkweeds are so named for the milky white sap they produce. This substance may be toxic if ingested and irritating to the skin. It is caustic to the eyes and will result in a chemical burn with the potential for permanent damage; so be very careful when handling milkweed.