Butterfly Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Meet the Proposed Indiana State WildflowerAsclepia_AlanCressler

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa

Other names: Butterfly milkweed, Orange milkweed, Pleurisy root, Chigger flower

The importance of Butterfly Weed for Monarch butterflies:

The habitat for Monarch butterflies and other pollinators is dwindling at an alarming rate. With shifting land management practices, we have lost much milkweed from the landscape.

Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on milkweeds.

Butterfly Weed is one of the most beautiful milkweeds, and provides essential habitat for the beloved Monarch butterfly. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is considered one of the best varieties for an ornamental garden as it does not spread by underground runners.

Good for many pollinators:

The bright orange flowers of Butterfly Weed are attractive to many varieties of butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Pollinators provide important services for us – 1 in 3 bites of food is due to cross pollination by pollinators.

Good plant for Indiana:

Butterfly Weed is a drought resistant/drought tolerant plant. It is also very resistant to deer browse. This sun-loving Indiana native plant can be grown in every region of the state. Butterfly Weed is good in clay, loam, and low fertility soil.

Plant description:

This bushy, 1-1/2 to 2 foot perennial is prized for its large, flat-topped clusters of flowers. The yellow-orange to bright orange flower clusters, 2 to 5 inches across, are at the top of the flowering stem. The leaves are mostly alternate, 1-1/2 to 2-1/4 inches long, pointed, and smooth on the edge. The abundance of stiff, lance-shaped foliage provides a dark-green backdrop for the showy flower heads.

This showy plant is frequently grown from seed in home gardens. It is low-maintenance and undemanding. Because its tough root was chewed by the Indians as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, Butterfly Weed was given its other common name, Pleurisy Root. Although it is sometimes called Orange Milkweed, this species has no milky sap.

2017 Perennial Plant of the Year:

Butterfly Weed has been selected as the Perennial Plant of the Year 2017 by the Perennial Plant Association. This will greatly increase availability in wholesale and retail plant distributors for those interested in growing the plant. As the Indiana State Wildflower, Butterfly Weed will be even more sought after by gardeners, landscapers, and wildlife habitat enthusiasts.

March 2017 Update: A bill naming this state wildflower was introduced in 2017 but did not make it out of committee. INPAWS will mount a campaign again in the 2018 Legislative Session.


    Bryan wrote on September 14, 2017

    Hope you can help me. I have a number of common milkweed plants and would like to know how to harvest pods to seed other areas. When should I harvest and seed areas. Thanks.

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