Family – Asclepiadaceae, milkweed family
Genus, species – Asclepias tuberosa
Leaves are lance-shaped, 2 to 3 inches long, 1 inch wide. Edges of leaves are smooth (no teeth), often curl downward.
Flowers are bright orange or yellow with five petals. Flowers are arranged in large clusters at the end of a stem. Each cluster has 10 to 25 flowers.
Fruit is an erect pod, 3 to 6 inches long.
Seeds are “tufted” with white hairs at their tips.
Deep taproot. Doesn’t transplant easily.
Flowers produce lots of nectar and are very attractive to butterflies, hence the name "butterfly weed."
Leaves, fruits, and stems are toxic. Caterpillars of monarch butterflies feed on and sequester toxins from milkweed plants.
Milkweed is unpalatable and will not be eaten by livestock unless it is mixed in with their forage. There is no antidote if an animal consumes milkweed. If you know your animal has consumed a lot of the plant, you may ask a veterinarian to empty its stomach contents and provide care for the animal. If the animal nibbles a little bit of the plant, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
Most milkweeds have a thick sticky milky sap that oozes out of cut or torn leaves, stems, or pods. Butterfly milkweed, however, does not have this milky white juice.
Asclepias is named for the Greek god of healing, Asklepios. The species name tuberosa is from the Latin and refers to the fact that the rhizomes of some plants have tubers.