- Common Name(s):
- Butterfly weed, chigger-plant, milkweed
- Herbs, Native Plants, Perennials, Poisonous Plants, Wildflowers
Asclepias tuberosa, commonly called butterfly weed, is a tuberous rooted, native perennial which occurs in dry/rocky open woods, glades, prairies, fields, and roadsides. This plant is moderately salt tolerant. Unlike many of the other milkweeds, this species does not have milky-sapped stems.
The flowers give way to prominent, spindle-shaped seed pods (3-6" long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. Seed pods are valued in dried flower arrangements. This plant has a long bloom period from late spring throughout the summer. Flowers are a nectar source for many butterflies and leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Also commonly called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammations.
The seed of cultivars, such as 'Gay Butterflies', may contain pure yellow and bright red individuals, but the typical orange color predominates.
Regions: Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains
Seasons of Interest:
Blooms: Late Spring thru Summer Nut/Fruit/Seed: Fall
Wildlife Value: This plant is resistant to damage by deer. It is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly. Its flowers are attractive to butterflies and other insects.
Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Crown rot can be a problem in wet, poorly drained soils. Susceptible to rust and leaf spot.
- Erect, perennial herbs with milky juice; leaves simple, alternate, opposite, or whorled, narrow; flowers 5-parted, in rounded clusters, white, greenish, yellow, orange, or red; fruit dry and inflated, erect, and with many hair-tufted seeds
- Sun, part shade
- 1-3 ft.
- Flower Color:
- Orange, red, yellow
- USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9
- The Butterfly weed has lance-shaped to narrowly egg-shaped leaves scattered singly along the stem. The leaves are 1 to 4 in. long, reclining, ascending to somewhat erect, hairy stems that branch toward the summit.
- Butterfly weed typically grows in a clump to 1-3' tall and features clusters (umbels) of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining hairy stems. The flowers have five sepals, five petals, and five stamens. This plant has 4- to 5-in. spindle shape seed pods.
- Butterfly weed is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Does well in poor, dry soils. New growth tends to emerge late in the spring. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Mature plants may freely self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Butterfly weed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot and is probably best left undisturbed once established.
- full sun
- Dry, well drained
- Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain
- USA, NC
- Poison Part:
- All parts
- Poison Delivery Mode:
- Vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms
- Toxic Principle:
- Cardiac glycosides and resinoids
- TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN.
- Found in:
- Weedy in disturbed areas, native or naturalized in waste places, roadsides, fields; landscape in flower gardens as herbaceous perennials
- Life Cycle:
NCCES plant id: 682