COMMON MILKWEED

Asclepias syriaca

One of the milkweed varieties that support Monarch butterflies who lay their eggs exclusively on milkweeds to reproduce, their leaves providing food for their caterpillars. Many other butterflies, bees, wasps and moths as well as hummingbirds and other birds feed from the abundant nectar on these fragrant pinkish-purple flowers. These beneficial insects then pollinate the plant. While the flowers are seductive to these insects the process of penetrating the flower is complex and dangerous. Many flies lose their legs or lives trying,

The common name comes from the milky latex like sap that flows from the stems or leave when cut or punctured. This sap is toxic and can be poisonous to some animals. The sap contains cardiac glycosides in the form of cardenolides. It is considered dangerous to cattle, which is why so many cattle ranchers have removed milkweed extensively with herbicides thus contributing to the collapse of the Monarch butterfly population.

The name asclepius refers to the Greek god, Asklepios, the god of medicine. Syriaca refers to Syrian.

The plant spreads easily through rhizomes below the ground so that one seed can eventually lead to a colony. The seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements.

SPECS: Genus: Asclepias; Species: syriaca; Plant Type: Forb; Life Cycle: Perennial; Sun Exposure: Full Sun; Soil Moisture: Mesic (middle), Medium Dry; Height: 2′ — 5′; Spread: 1′; Plant Spacing: 1′; Bloom Time: June — August; Bloom Color: Mauve, Pink, White; Advantages: Birds, Deep root system, Erosion control, Low maintenance, Medicinal uses; USDA Zone: 3 — 9; Attracts: Butterflies, Honey bees, Monarchs; Tolerant: Deer, Drought, Dry soils;