The Asclepias Project

Here at the Echinacea Project, we have decided that we have more than enough data to answer all of our questions about Echinacea. Echinacea angustifolia is yesterday’s news. We have therefore decided to become the Asclepias project! 

Asclepias viridflora (green milkweed) is similar to angustifolia in that both are self-incompatible perennial forbs native to Minnesota’s tall-grass prairie. Not much is known about viridiflora, including how it reacts to fire. Does fire promote survival, population growth, and reproduction in Asclepias viridiflora, as it does in Echinacea? If it does, that would bolster our assumption that Echinacea is a good model organism for prairie research. It would also provide vital data on the effects of prescribed burns.

For these reasons, we are tracking green milkweed vitality in prairie remnants. Some of the sites we are looking at were burned in the fall or spring, while others have never burned. Last year, 71 green milkweeds were found across 8 remnants. This year we revisited the locations of those 71 plants, most of which were still there. The team also found 41 new plants. All together we’ve found over 80 live plants!! 

Milkweed has clusters of flowers called umbels. At this point in the summer, most green milkweed umbels have senesced and fallen off, and pods are forming. We will revisit and count these pods later in the season. The data we are collecting includes status (present or not); umbel, pod, and stem count; and leaf width. 

Nice big Milkweed pod.

As the only team member without a car, I’ve really appreciated rides from Daytona and Joey out to the remnants. I couldn’t ask for better partners to help me find and stake/survey milkweed.

Daytona ponders Asclepias (and life) at Hegg.
Joey bears the cross at Staffanson.

Daytona, Joey, and I (Johanna) have also been taking turns naming all the new milkweed plants we’ve come across. Here is a comprehensive list: 

Tedward “Teddy”

Mary Jane


Spronkle Axil


Mark Watney

Björn Ironsight


Barbra Lou

Turtle “Turty”


Sammy Simmons

Ilina Anna

Lightning McQueen from Cars 1, 2, and 3

Masterchief from Fortnite

Markiplier “Marky Moo”

Mathilda Ulrike “Math-u”


Dr. Bared Jeck

Chairman Mao

Archie from Riverdale

Brigham Young

Italian Car from “Cars”

Sam Winchester

Henry Kissingmen

Ted Krazinsky (Unabomber)


Tony Hawk, Pro Sk8er


Neutral Radiator Beach House


Not to play favorites, but…Tedward is my favorite.

Stay tuned for more Asclepias updates later this summer!


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