Across the Oak Ridge Reservation during the summer, you’ll find a Tennessee-orange flower between two and three feet tall called the butterfly weed. It is one of thirteen milkweed species native to Tennessee. It attracts a multitude of different butterflies and moths, such as the coral hairstreak, the corn earworm moth and even the monarch butterfly, which not only visits to eat the nutritious nectar, but also to lay its eggs. Monarch caterpillars are picky eaters and will only eat the leaves of milkweed plants. Additionally, many other pollinators, such as bees, are attracted to the nectar and pollen this flower provides.
The roots of this plant were also traditionally harvested and eaten by Native Americans as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, giving light to one of its other common names, pleurisy root. It is a great addition to dry gardens with good drainage. It is a popular target for aphids, so having ladybugs on-site will help, though it can withstand being forcefully sprayed down with water to remove pests once it is established and hardy enough.