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Asclepias syriaca

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Asclepias apocinum
  • Asclepias pubescens
  • Asclepias syriaca f. inermis
Phonetic Spelling
as-KLEE-pee-as seer-ee-AY-kah
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Common milkweed is a deciduous, native, herbaceous perennial wildflower in the Apocynaceae (dogbane) family. It grows in average, well-drained soils in full sun but can tolerate poor or dry soils. It propagates easily by seed or root cuttings and will naturalize in the garden, taking up quite a bit of space. 

In summer, five-petaled flowers bloom with up to 100 flowers per cluster and one to three clusters per stem. Fragrant flowers in colors of green, pink, white, and purple or lavender will last from June through August. Plants can grow 3 to 5 feet tall.  Leaf arrangement is opposite and is oblong in shape with reddish veins.

Common milkweed not only provides nectar for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators but is a larval host plant for Monarch butterflies. 

Native Americans used the milkweed plant for fiber sources. Life jackets were made from the coma of the seeds during WWII. Today, coma is used for pillows and blankets.

Common milkweed can be used in naturalized areas, meadows, and butterfly, native, or pollinator gardens, but its wild and rangy form is not ideal for planting in borders. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Stems and leaves when crushed will produce a milky liquid and sap.
  • Many hairtufted seeds are dispersed by the wind.
  • Seed pods have a warty appearance.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious problems but can be weedy.  Milkweed-feeding aphids are common, though can be left alone and will attract beneficial insects that will feed on them. It does not tolerate shade. The bark, flower, seed pods, leaves, roots, and stems are poisonous, which can be a problem for cats, dogs, and horses.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Tropical Look Garden Round Garden Bed Tropical Look Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#poisonous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#pink flowers#weedy#nectar plant#low maintenance#erosion control#deer resistant#native garden#Monarch butterfly#naturalizes#wildflower garden#dried arrangements#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#coastal UPL#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#nectar plant early summer#nectar plant mid-summer#nectar plant late summer#FACU Piedmont Mountains#problem for cats#pollinator garden#problem for dogs#problem for horses#Audubon#meadows
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#poisonous#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#pink flowers#weedy#nectar plant#low maintenance#erosion control#deer resistant#native garden#Monarch butterfly#naturalizes#wildflower garden#dried arrangements#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#coastal UPL#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#nectar plant early summer#nectar plant mid-summer#nectar plant late summer#FACU Piedmont Mountains#problem for cats#pollinator garden#problem for dogs#problem for horses#Audubon#meadows
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Asclepias
    Species:
    syriaca
    Family:
    Apocynaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans used the plant as a fiber source. During WWII the seeds were collected and the hairy coma or "floss" on the seeds was used in making life jackets. The coma is used today for pillows and blankets.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & E. Canada to Central & E. U.S.A., NC
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers provide a nectar source for butterflies, bees and other pollinators and the plant is the larval host plant of the monarch butterfly and milkweed tussock moth, which appear in the spring and summer and may have one to three broods in the north and four to six broods in the south. This butterfly breeds all year long in Florida, south Texas, and southeastern California. Adult Monarch butterflies feed on nectar from all species of milkweeds. . Also fed upon by the milkweed weevil and milkweed longhorn beetle.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 8 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Wildflower
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Good Dried
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Fruit a hairy and spiked gray follicle dry and inflated, 2"-4" long 1 2/3" wide erect, with a thick end and tapered tip. It has many hair-tufted seeds that are wind dispersed. Seed pod has a warty appearance and is used in dried flower arrangments. Displays from July through September
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    2- to 3-in., domed umbel of dusty pink or lavender 5 petaled flowers with up to 100 flowers per cluster and 1-3 clusters per stem. They grow in the leaf axis; often drooping. The bloom season is long-lasting from June through August.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    3- to 12-inch, thick light green opposite, oblong leaves; downy underside; reddish veins, rounded at both ends or abruptly pointed at the tip. Milky sap when crushed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Have a milky liquid when crushed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Erosion
    Poor Soil
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
    Weedy
  • 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