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Four-Leaved Milkweed Asclepias quadrifolia

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Asclepias vanilla
Phonetic Spelling
as-KLEE-pee-as kwad-ree-FOH-lee-uh
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

The common name Whorled Milkweed is derived from the whorls of 4 leaves appearing at the middle of the stem.  Four-leaved milkweed also refers to the same leaves but, in addition, the thick, milky substance or juice that oozes from the stems and leaves when broken.   

An erect, perennial herbs with milky juice and umbrella-like clusters of pink, lavender, or white flowers with pale pink corolla lobes and white hoods.  The 5-parted fruit is dry and inflated, erect, and with many hair-tufted seeds.

Milkweed is perhaps best known as the host plant for the Monarch butterfly.  The Monarch begins its northward flight in early spring from its winter nesting sites in Mexico and also southern California.  As they trek north, they will seek out milkweed on which to lay their eggs.  Once the tiny eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars, they will begin to eat the foliage of the plant in order to grow and develop.  Within several days, the once tiny caterpillars will have matured and grown up to 1.5" long and will begin their transformation.  They will seek a protected location, hanging in the form of the letter 'J'.  It is not easily apparent, but while hanging they are forming a web-like structure from which they are hanging.  The caterpillar will then begin to transform into a chrysalis, a clear casing that surrounds the caterpillar.  Metamorphosis takes place, and an adult butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis.  After its wings unfold and dry, the now beautiful Monarch will continue the journey northward until summer's end, at which time the southbound journey will begin.  

Fibers from this plant were used by the Cherokee nation to create bowstrings.  

Site: Edge of woods, roadsides, prairies, meadows.

Found in: Weedy in disturbed areas, native or naturalized in waste places, roadsides, fields; landscape in flower gardens as herbaceous perennials.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Aphids frequent this plant.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#poisonous#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#moths#honey bees#bumblebees#deer resistant#Monarch butterfly#rock garden#self-seeding#native wildflower#dried arrangements#NC Native Pollinator Plant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#woodland garden#wet soils intolerant#native#showy#butterflies
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#showy flowers#poisonous#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#moths#honey bees#bumblebees#deer resistant#Monarch butterfly#rock garden#self-seeding#native wildflower#dried arrangements#NC Native Pollinator Plant#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#woodland garden#wet soils intolerant#native#showy#butterflies
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Asclepias
    Species:
    quadrifolia
    Family:
    Apocynaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Host plant
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    SE. Canada to N. Central & E. U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    AL, AR, CT, DE, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MN, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WV
    Wildlife Value:
    Butterflies and moths are attracted to the flowers. Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly, as well as bumblebees and honey bees.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Easy to Grow
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 9 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Poisonous
    Wildflower
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Follicle
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The green fruit becomes dry and inflated, and with many hair-tufted seeds. They make a great addition to dried arrangements.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Tubular
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    1-4 domed, umbrella-like clusters of pink, lavender, or white flowers with pale pink corolla lobes and white hoods.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Whorls of 4 leaves at the middle of the stem. The upper leaves are paired. Leaves are thin, egg to lance-shaped and measure 2-6 in. long. The base of each leaf gradually narrows, or tapers.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    A single stemmed, upright habit. The stems, which are flattened on one side, can often take on a purple tint. Longitudinal lines are glabrous or pubescent.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Slope/Bank
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Cutting Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN. Vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Cardiac glycosides and resinoids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Seeds
    Stems