Milkweeds, members of the genus Asclepias, are widely appreciated as essential host plants for the larva of the beloved Monarch Butterfly. It is less commonly known that there are several closely related species that also serve this function. One such taxon is Matelea obliqua, also known as Climbing Milkvine. This delicate looking herbaceous vine grows 8 to 10 feet tall when mature, climbing by gently wrapping around plants or structures. Blooming for about a month in mid-summer, it produces clusters of 1” maroon, star shaped flowers. While it dies back to the ground each winter, it reliably returns each spring in a more robust display.
This plant is uncommon throughout its range due to its usual occurance in transitional settings such as forest clearings, and is threatened by habitat loss. Like with many of our less common native species, adding Matelea obliqua to our plantings aids the survival of the plant, as well as delighting the eye. Reward both yourself and the environment by planting Climbing Milkvine, it thrives in most any soil, as long as it is well drained and sited in part sun to open shade.
Photo: Photo by PNHP staff. Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License