Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Butterfly milkweed is a perennial that produces large, showy clusters of bright orange to reddish flowers. Petals are distinctly downturned. Stems are rough to hairy, and leaves are narrowly lanceolate, and oppositely arranged. Asclepias tuberosa is an exception to the Asclepias genus in that its stem does not contain the milky latex that distinguishes the rest of the genus and gives it the common name “milkweed.”
Butterfly milkweed flowers from spring through fall. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and other sandy uplands as well as along sunny roadsides. It is the larval food plant of monarch and queen butterflies. It also attracts hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators.
Butterfly milkweed is sometimes referred to as pleurisy root because Native Americans chewed the root of the plant to treat pleurisy. Today, it is commercially available as an extract and as a dried root powder.
Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Native range: Nearly throughout
To see where natural populations of butterflyweed have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 1-3’ tall, with 1-2’ spread
Propagation: Seed, division, cuttings
Garden tips: Butterfly milkweed is an excellent addition to butterfly gardens as well as any dry, hot landscape.
Butterfly milkweed seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative. Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.