Additional Milkweed Data

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Seed development

Although follicles quickly reach mature size, seed development is not necessarily complete.  Seed is a translucent white in the early stages and gradually darkens to a deep brown when mature.  Pictures to the left and below illustrate the various maturation stages of the seed in follicles.



Follicle characteristics

Follicles vary widely in shape, size, color, and external texture.  The follicle shape may be elongated or short and round.  The color may appear green, yellow-green, or slightly purple.  The texture may range from the uncommon smooth surface to extremely long spines. The picture to the right illustrates the phenotypic assortment collected from the Alternative Crops Research plots. 


Species comparisons

Current studies at WIU are focusing on Illinois native common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.  However, several of the populations used in the 2001 direct seeding trials were  Asclepias speciosa, showy milkweed, or hybrids achieved when A. syriaca and A. speciosa are naturally cross-pollinated.  The blooms of both species are shown to the left and below as well as a comparison of the flower sizes and structures of common milkweed, showy milkweed, and the hybrid of the two.


Monarch life cycle

Milkweed plants are host to monarchs at many stages of their life cycle.  Caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves prior to attaching to the milkweed stalk to form their chrysalis.  Butterflies return to milkweed flowers after emerging from the chrysalis.  Photographs to the right and below show three stages of the monarch life cycle observed at the Western Illinois University Agriculture Field Laboratory in Macomb, Illinois throughout the 2003 season.


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Last revised: October 19, 2012