• Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed


    Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae). The genus name Asclepias is named after the Greek god of medicine Asklepios. The species name tuberose refers to the tuberous (knobby and with swellings) roots. (Stritch)


    "Butterfly weed is a coarse perennial forb consisting of many stems. The stems are straight and very hairy. The leaves are alternate and simple. Unlike other species of milkweed butterfly weed does not contain the characteristic thick milky sap but instead has a watery translucent sap. The inflorescence is slightly rounded to flat and made up many individual flowers. The flower consists of five petals pointing down and topped by a crown of five erect hoods. The fruit is a pod containing numerous brown seed each with a tuft of silky white hairs. Many a child and adult have gleefully pulled the seeds from a ripened, opened pod and let them float gracefully on a gentle breeze." (Stritch)


    Butterfly weed grows commonly in dry open habitats and is very common in the prairies and grasslands of the Midwest and Great Plains. This beautiful native wildflower is found from Maine to South Dakota to the desert southwest to Florida. (Stritch)


    "Butterfly weed is commonly planted in formal garden borders and in meadow and prairie gardens. This wildflower does not transplant well as it has a deep woody taproot. It is easily propagated from seed. Collect the seed from the pods has they just begin to open. Butterfly weed seed need a three-month cold stratification. Therefore, it is best to plant the seed in autumn and they will easily germinate the following spring." (Stritch)


    "Native Americans harvested fibers from the dried stems that were made into ropes and used in weaving cloth. Many tribes used various parts of the butterfly weed as food. In colonial America, dried leaves of butterfly weed and skunk cabbage were made into a tea to treat chest inflammations thus giving butterfly weed an alternative name: pleurisy root. Pleurisy root was listed in the American Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary until 1936." (Stritch)

    Asclepias Tuberosa Botany By Dr. John Hilty


    "The preference is full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and an acidic soil that is sandy or rocky. However, this plant will adapt to other kinds of soil, including those that contain loam or clay, if they are well-drained. Although this plant develops somewhat slowly, it is easy to cultivate in open sunny areas once it becomes established. Tolerance to hot dry weather is excellent. If the taproot of a young plant is planted too close to the soil surface, it may become damaged by frost due to heaving of the soil." (Hilty)

    Faunal Associations:

    "The flower nectar attracts honeybees, digger bees (Melissodes spp.), leaf-cutting bees (Megachile spp.), Halictid bees (including green metallic bees), thread-waisted wasps (Ammophila spp.) and other Sphecid wasps, and butterflies, including Fritillaries (Speyeria spp.), Swallowtails (Papilio spp.), and the Monarch (Danaus plexippus); see Robertson (1929). The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is also attracted to the flowers. Some insects feed destructively on the leaves, flowers and buds, seedpods, and other parts of Butterfly Milkweed. These insects include larvae of the Blackened Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes melanurus), the Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii), the Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), larvae of a butterfly, the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), and larvae of a moth, the Unexpected Cycnia (Cycnia inopinatus). Butterfly Milkweed is the preferred host plant of the preceding moth (see Yanega, 1996; Betz et al., 1997; Wagner, 2005). A polyphagous insect, the Curve-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia curvicauda), was observed to feed on the leaves of this milkweed (Gangwere, 1961); it may also feed on the flowers. While the foliage of Butterfly Milkweed lacks the toxic milky latex that is typical of other milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), mammalian herbivores nonetheless appear to avoid it." (Hilty)


    1. By Country Gardens Nursery, Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved
    2. "Asclepias tuberosa interior" By Eric Hunt - Own work, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
    3. "Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) in Farmington, Connecticut" By Ragesoss - Own work, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, h

    Type: Herbaceous perennial
    Family: Apocynaceae
    Native Range: Eastern and southern United States
    Zone: 3 to 9
    Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
    Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
    Bloom Time: June to August
    Bloom Description: Yellow/orange
    Sun: Full sun
    Water: Dry to medium
    Maintenance: Low
    Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
    Flower: Showy
    Attracts: Butterflies
    Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil