Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly-weed)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Butterfly-weed is one of the showiest native* wildflowers. Summer waves of orange blossoms brighten open fields, woods, and waysides. Later, spindle-shaped seed pods (follicles) pierce the air in shades of green, yellow, brown. When follicles split open, the seeds’ silky threads glisten in the sun. The Virginia Native Plant Society selected Butterfly-weed as Wildflower of the Year in 1992.

*It is common from central PA through VA

Print Version (Legal Size): Asclepias tuberosa ([Common] Butterfly-weed)Asclepias tuberosa ((Common)Butterfly-weed) Perennial Height: 1–3 feet Spread: 1–11⁄2 feet Bloom Color: Orange Characteristics Single-stemmed to multistemmed clumps Lance-shaped leaves on hairy stems Orange flowers in clusters bloom June to August Spindle-shaped seed pods, 3–6 inches long Self-seeds when pods split open Attributes Tolerates dry/poor soil and drought; no serious pests or diseases; deer seldom severely damage Seed pods used in dried flower arrangements Ethnobotanic uses; toxic when ingested without sufficient preparation or in sufficient quantity Attracts a variety of beneficial and other insects and hummers; larval host for Monarch butterfly Growing and Maintenance Tips Soil Requirements: Average, well-drained Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Shade Water Requirements: Dry, Moist Seedlings transplant well; deep tap roots do notFlowers produced once plants are 2–3 years oldDead foliage or flowers may harbor Monarch eggs or larvae so do not remove them until after frostIt is common from central PA through VA. A tattered-winged monarch butterfly pictured in July was near the end of its life cycle. If successful, the monarch larva pictured eating leaves in September would have become a butterfly, migrated to Mexico, and returned to the US in early spring to mate. The milkweed bug nymphs pictured on the pod eat the seeds, helping to regulate milkweed populations. Use in borders or in butterfly or meadow gardens Hardiness: USDA Zones 3–9 Excellent Replacement for Buddleia species - Butterfly Bush Coronilla varia - Crown Vetch Lythrum salicaria- Purple Loosestrife Sedum species

This video shows European honey bees carrying pollinia of Asclepias tuberosa on their legs and tarsi. In the first slow motion clip, the honey bee’s tarsus–with pollinia attached–seems to have slipped into a stigmatic slit. Did it make a delivery or a pick up? To learn more about pollinia, read The Perils of Pollinia and More about Milkweed.

Video © 2020 Mary Free

Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants: Tried and True Plant Fact Sheets