For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Milkweed (Asclepias fruticosa)

It is often planted in gardens (it is frost-sensitive, requires full sun and well-drained soil and should be regarded as invasive), particularly because it attracts butterflies (Monarch and Swallowtail), but also crab spiders, ladybirds/bugs, bees, wasps, ants and moths. Some feed on the nectar and the plant itself while others feed on the insects attracted to it.

Milkweed not only provides food for the adult Monarch but also a nesting area for eggs and larvae. It can have a deep root system once it becomes established and is then difficult to eradicate from gardens.

The plant is quite toxic because it produces a group of toxins known as cardenolides. The poisons protect the plant against herbivores. However, some animals and the ostrich, are capable of eating the plant without ill effect.

Thus the Monarch caterpillar is among a select few creatures able to graze on the leaves of the milkweed. It manages to sequester and store poisons so that the butterfly into which it develops is protected from predators.
The female Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of the leaves where they hatch in about 5 days. The young caterpillar chews itself out of the shell which it then eats as its first meal.

Stems contain a strong, silky bark fibre formerly used for sewing. The milky latex reportedly effective in removing warts. Seed hairs formerly used as tinder and to stuff pillows and mattresses.

Medicinal



A leaf infusion, taken by mouth, is used to treat intestinal troubles (diarrhoea and stomach pain) in children and, given per rectum, as a purgative. Dried powdered leaf is inhaled as a snuff for the relief of headache, coryza and tuberculosis.

Precautions



In view of the possibility of cardiac, uterotonic and antihypertensive activity, preparations of this species should be used with caution, on prescription from a competent traditional practitioner.