As anyone who has ordered from us recently knows, we are happy to include a free seed packet of rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata – http://bit.ly/1lAx0X1) with every purchase. The importance of species like rose milkweed is certainly not lost on the ecologically minded. Made popular due to the plight of the monarch butterfly, milkweeds are becoming a very common choice for native gardens all over the United States. It’s not just monarch butterflies that benefit from this either. Countless numbers of insects and other animals rely on this genus for at least a portion of their life cycles. Many of you probably know Asclepias incarnata as swamp milkweed. This name can be a little bit deceiving as this species can do quite well outside of a swamp. All it takes is rich, moist soils and a decent amount of sun to get a brilliant display of rose milkweed in your garden. They are quite deer resistant as well! The sweet smell of their pink and white flowers will attract pollinators from far and wide. Even hummingbirds pay this species a visit from time to time. Bees are the main pollinators of this plant. It is fun to watch them at the flowers. Each petal forms a hood that is chock-full of nectar. The hoods are waxy and medium sized insects have a hard time getting a good grasp on them. This forces their feet into the slits between the hoods where specialized sticky sacs of pollen called “pollinia” are located. When the insects foot wedges into the slit, the pollinia become attached. When the insect visits another milkweed flower, the pollinia are wedged into the slit and thus pollination is achieved. Much better behaved than the common milkweed, rose milkweed will not crowd out other species in your garden. After flowering, rose milkweed produces skinny, upright seed pods that are quite attractive as well. There is good reason to be giving away rose milkweed seeds with every purchase. The habitats that milkweeds rely on are dwindling at an alarming rate. The disappearance of the monarch butterfly along with them is only the tip of the iceberg. Conservation of milkweed habitat is the real goal of any conservation movement and planting milkweed on your property is a great first step.