Milkweeds, genus Asclepias, are a hot topic recently because of the monarch butterflies. Their caterpillars only eat milkweeds which give them the chemicals making them taste bad to birds.
Another plus for milkweeds is the abundant nectar they produce. Insects of all kinds descend on the flowers to feast on this bounty.
In spite of all this publicity, milkweeds remain an obscure group of plants. Many people don’t realize the number and variety of kinds of milkweeds found just in the United States.
Dr. Richard Rintz does know. He spent years tracking the plants down and photographing them. He spent more years researching the various species. The results are now in a three volume set of books called “Asclepias.”
Each species has its own section. Photographs of the plants begin the section. A history of how the plant was discovered, the formal description – translated into English – and comments about the plant follow the photographs. Drawings from the original descriptions and drawings of the flowers done by Dr. Rintz complete the species sections.
The last full treatment of Asclepias was done by Dr. Woodson in 1954. He organized the genus, tried to settle some of the name and species arguments and gave range maps for each of the species. More information about different species has come to light in the years since. Dr. Rintz has included this.
These volumes are a botanical treatment of Asclepias. They can get very technical. They are intended to update Woodson’s monograph for botanists and serious amateurs interested in the genus.
For the rest of us, these volumes have gorgeous photographs of milkweeds. Only the scientific names are given, but finding the common names is not difficult.
Milkweeds vary from plants not much larger than a dollar bill growing on deep red sand dunes to eight foot tall erect leafless stems in the desert southwest to the broad-leaved plants common in my area of the Ozarks. The flowers all have the typical Asclepias five wells, but vary in color from white to yellow to pink to purple. The range is large and fascinating.
The three volumes are privately printed, 8 1/2 by 11 inches and spiral bound. A set is $200 plus postage. For the present as copies are limited, if you wish to purchase a set, please contact me by email.