Asclepias Syriaca

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Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a native herbaceous perennial that appeals to butterflies—especially the monarch butterfly. Asclepias is the only plant family that serves as the host plant for monarch butterfly egg laying. The monarch larvae, the hatchling caterpillars, feed exclusively on milkweed leaves. Without milkweed, there can be no monarch butterflies.

Common milkweed grows quickly to two to four feet in height. It has a narrow vertical growth habit and thick, long, oblong green leaves that grow to about eight inches.

Plant seedlings in the early spring after the danger of frost has passed and direct-sow seeds in the ground in the late fall. Once established, milkweed spreads rapidly by self-seeding if seed pods are not removed. In late spring to mid-summer, fragrant clusters of pink-purple flowers appear. Milkweed’s leaves and the milk-like substance within are poisonous, except to monarch butterflies. *Although milkweeds are poisonous raw, the young shoots, leaves and seed pods are all edible cooked. When placed in cold water, brought to a boil and simmered till tender, milkweeds are said to be delicately flavored and harmless.

Common NameMilkweed, common milkweed
Botanical NameAsclepias syriaca
Plant TypeHerbaceous perennial
Mature Size2 to 4 ft. tall
Sun ExposureFull sun
Soil TypeAny well-drained soil; tolerates clay soil and poor, dry conditions
Soil pH4.8 to 7.2
Bloom TimeJune to August
Flower ColorPink, mauve, white
Hardiness Zones3 to 9 (USDA)
Native AreaEastern United States
ToxicityToxic to humans and animals *