So my friend and coworker Joanna was telling me about how excited she was to be finding Monarch butterfly eggs on what she called a “milkweed vine” in her backyard. That’s great, I told her authoritatively, but if it’s a milkweed it can’t be a vine.
I was going to Springfield (where Joanna lives) at the end of the week for a conference, so we agreed that I would come to her house after we were done with our work obligations. She even said she would give me some Monarch eggs to take home, because she was finding more than she could handle. This made me happy and jealous at the same time.
When I got to her house, I found a vining plant that looked a bit like Bindweed. It did indeed have what appeared to be numerous leaves with Monarch eggs, and at least one tiny caterpillar. Clearly it was time to consult the internet! We headed for the first floor study in Joanna’s house.
Turns out there is a vining Milkweed native to much of eastern North America. It’s known by such common names Honeyvine or Bluevine, but it’s botanical name is Cynanchum laeve. So it is not of the genus Asclepias but it is in the Milkweed subfamily of plants, who have the unfortunate name Asclepiadoideae.
Some of the articles that popped up on Honeyvine indicated that it was an invasive pest, an aggressive self-sower with a taproot impervious to all the powers of mankind. This must be one reason why Honeyvine is not one of the Milkweeds that you will find for sale at plant nurseries or garden centers. Another is that it is not particularly ornamental.
Lining one bookshelf in Joanna’s study was a series of small tupperware containers wrapped in women’s stockings. Each contained a Honeyvine leaf with a Monarch egg or caterpillar. Each egg/caterpillar has been given a name by Joanna’s two young daughters. I wish I had thought of taking a picture, but I didn’t.
Anyway, Joanna gave me 8 Honeyvine leaves with Monarch eggs, plus one caterpillar, for me to take home. They will have to get used to Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Rose Milkweed (A. incarnata) leaves at my house.
On another Milkweed front, I finally got some blooms out of my Prairie Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii). Prairie Milkweed is very similar to Common Milkweed (A. syriaca) but allegedly much less aggressive. This may be true as Prairie Milkweed did not readily establish itself in our garden.
Now that this one plant is doing well, I’m looking forward to a nice clump developing. It’s an attractive plant, I think.
Have you ever heard of Honeyvine? Have you had any Milkweed surprises lately?