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Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa


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Butterfly Weed
© Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Alternate name: Pleurisy Root, Butterfly Milkweed

Family: Asclepiadaceae, Milkweed view all from this family

Description Native perennial. Habit: bushy. Height: 1-3 ft. Large, flat-topped clusters of bright-orange flowers. An abundance of stiff, lance-shaped foliage provides a dark-green backdrop for the showy flower heads. The leaves are spirally arranged, lanceolate, 5-12 cm long and 2-3 cm broad.

Warning All plants in the genus Asclepias are probably somewhat toxic, some fatally so, to both humans and animals. The sap of some causes skin irritation in humans. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower Early summer to early fall.

Flower April - September (in south); June - July (in north)

Habitat Dry, well-drained soils in full sun.

Range East and midwest U.S., west to Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona and California.

Discussion This plant attracts butterflies and is the larval food of the Queen and Monarch butterflies. Numerous common names, including: Butterfly Weed, Canada Root, Chigger Flower, Fluxroot, Indian Paintbrush, Orange Milkweed, Orange Swallow-wort, etc.

Comments The brilliant orange flowers are one of the most striking summer sights in North American prairies. An enormous taproot makes it difficult to transplant but very drought tolerant.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution Maine to Florida, w. to Minnesota, Kansas & Arizona

Site Preference Sandy prairies & meadows; open pine forests

Soil Preference Well-drained, sandy soils. pH 4.5-6.5.

Wildlife Value As the name suggests, butterly weed attracts butterflies.