Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa is a species of milkweed native to eastern and southwestern North America. It is commonly known as butterfly weed because of the range of butterflies especially monarchs that are attracted to the plant by its color and its copious production of nectar.

In fact it is one of the milkweeds critical to the survival of monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants and no other, so they are essential to the survival of Monarch caterpillars which eat the milkweed leaves before transforming into butterflies. Especially important for providing nectar for many butterfly, moth, bee and wasp species as well as hummingbirds that in turn pollinate the plant. It’s a grand symbiotic relationship.

Asclepias tuberosa are uniquely identified by the larger number of colorful flowers, and the hairy stems that are not milky when broken. Spirally arranged narrow leaves. Long narrow seed pods. Easily grown from seed.

Known by many names, like Indian paintbrush, given its large dispersion across the continent from the Dakotas to Mexico and as far west as Arizona and Utah.  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.

SPECS: Native Name: Algonquin; Genus: Asclepias; Species: tuberosa; Plant Type: Forb, Wildflower; Life Cycle: Perennial; Sun Exposure: Full Sun; Soil Moisture: Medium Dry; Height: 1′ — 2′; Spread: 2′; Plant Spacing: 1′ — 2′; Bloom Time: April — September; Bloom Color: Orange, Red, Yellow; Advantages: Birds, Deep root system, Low maintenance, Medicinal uses, Pollinator conservation; USDA Zone: 3 — 9; Attracts: Butterflies, Honey bees, Hummingbirds, Moths; Tolerant: Deer, Drought, Rabbits; Plant Community: Companion plants include: Verbena Bonariensis, Dwarf Butterfly Bush, Purple Salvia & Blue Mistflower.;