Look, But Don’t Pick

Orange is the color of late July, as butterfly weed begins to flower, albeit somewhat later than usual in one of the coolest, rainiest summers the Island has seen in many years. The distinctive blooms dot old meadows and farm fields around the Vineyard; one of the best places to see butterfly weed down-Island is the Sweetened Water Farm field along the West Tisbury Road coming into Edgartown.

A member of the milkweed family, the wildflower is so named because it is attractive to monarch and swallowtail butterflies, which can be seen flitting gracefully atop the flowers. The common name is pleurisy root, because Native Americans chewed the tough roots as a cure for pulmonary ailments.

But please don’t pick the flowers — once listed as endangered in Massachusetts, butterfly weed is best enjoyed as is.