P&PDL Picture of the Week for
November 24, 2008

Butterfly Milkweed

Glenn Nice, Weed Diagnostician, Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University and
Bill Johnson, Professor, Botany & Plant Pathology, Purdue University

The color orange is a color that you don’t often see in nature; at least not as often as yellow and white. That is not to say it does not exist. Trumpetcreeper (Picture of the week April 17th, 2006), a common vine climbing telephone poles in Indiana is one of them. However, one of the most beautiful orange colored flowers is on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.), also known as butterfly milkweed. It is been given its common name due to the fact that like common milkweed, it is one of the sources of food for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

You can often find this native plant growing along roadsides and dry waste areas. This representative of the color orange can grow up to 2.5 feet tall and can be seen blooming all summer long. Its stems are branching and hairy. Its leaves have short petioles or none at all and are 2 to 6 inches long and 0.2 to 1 inch wide. Also like other milkweeds it produces a long finely hairy pod (4-5 inches long) bearing small seeds that blow in the wind for dispersal.

Click image to enlarge

Butterfly milkweed flowers

Butterfly milkweed flowers

Butterfly milkweed

Butterfly milkweed

Butterfly milkweed pods

Butterfly milkweed pods

butterfly milkweed flowers

Butterfly milkweed

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service