Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum)
Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), or Indian Hemp, is widespread, native, and valuable to pollinators.
The "hemp" part of this common name refers to its usefulness in creating fiber (e.g., rope), not to any psychoactive qualities. This is an important distinction, as all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans, pets, and livestock.
However, it is not poisonous to the species that require it as a host plant, such as Delicate Cycnia Moth, Dogbane Beetle, and Dogbane Saucrobotys Moth. The genus itself, Apocynum, means "poisonous to dogs."
This plant can grow up to 2 m (6 ft 7 in) tall. The stems are reddish and contain a milky latex capable of causing skin blisters. The leaves are opposite, simple broad lanceolate, entire, and smooth on top with white hairs on the underside.
It flowers from July to August, has large sepals, and a five-lobed white corolla. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by moths and butterflies.
Dogbane grows in open wooded areas, ditches, and hillsides. It is found in gravelly or sandy soil, mainly near streams in shady or moist places.
It has also been used medicinally and is used to treat fever and dysentery. Although the toxins from the plant can cause nausea and catharsis, it has also been used for slowing the pulse, and it is also a sedative.
This plant was much employed by various Native American tribes who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints including rheumatism, coughs, pox, whooping cough, asthma, internal parasites, and diarrhea.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Common Milkweed is an herbaceous plant in the milkweed family (Asclepidaceae) and is found throughout much of the United States, east of the Rockies.
It is a perennial plant that grows up to 6 feet tall and it has broad, opposite leaves filled with a sticky white sap. Common milkweed flowers throughout June and its flowers are generally a pale pink to reddish color and are clustered in an umbel at the top of the plant. Often, the umbel will slightly droop, and its flowers contain a slightly sweet scent.
The flower petals are slightly reflexed or bent backwards. After about a month, the pollinated flowers will turn into fat seedpods that are 3-4 inches long. These seedpods have small prickles on them and will be green and fleshy until they mature into a dry, brown capsule that is filled with feathery seeds.
Over 450 insects have been documented feeding on Common Milkweed. Monarch butterflies, for example, host on this plant. As the caterpillars munch on the leaves of Milkweed, they ingest the white sap filled with chemicals called glycosides. These glycosides are toxic to most mammals as well as birds, making the Monarch caterpillars and adults poisonous to predators.
Other insects commonly found on Milkweed include Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, large and small Milkweed bugs, Milkweed Assassin bugs and Milkweed Aphids.