Asclepias syriaca

Common Milkweed

Botanical description: Although farmers despise it as an invader of pastures and hayfields, Asclepias syriaca is one of the earliest recorded North American species in the 1635 work “Canadensium Plantarum Historia.” In urban areas, the perennial can be found growing in vacant lots, along roadsides, and in open, urban meadows - often in dense patches formed by a network of underground rhizomes. Common milkweed can attain a height of nearly five feet, during inflorescence. It produces large, flower clusters composed of over one hundred individual pink flowers. The spherical umbels are extremely fragrant and are attractive to a host of bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and bugs, but milkweed is most celebrated for its relationship with the Monarch butterfly. The monarch only uses Ascelpias syriaca to lay eggs on the white underside of young, velvety leaves. The chemicals secreted from the plant and absorbed by the larvae whose sole source of food is milkweed foliage; make the larvae, caterpillar and the adult butterflies extremely distasteful to predators. The species is noted for its tear shaped seed pods that open to reveal attractive flossy, wind dispersed seeds, which can fly great distances and are often among the first colonizers of a successional meadow.



Place of Origin

Eastern North America