Butterfly Milkweed - Orange Milkweed
(Common Butterfly Weed; Pleurisy Root)
Asclepias tuberosa - Linnaeus
Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) Family


Milkweed bugs, Oncopeltus fasciatus (Dallas) left, feeding on grape leaves. Infant bugs are still under parental guidance. Photo courtesy Bob Patterson, Bowie, MD.

Orange Milkweed is also known as Butterfly Weed and Pleurisy Root.

Plant is an upright, hairy perennial with a woody rootstock. Preferred habitat is roadsides, prairies, woodland edges, pastures and fields. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.

Leaves are alternate; whole; short stalk; long and slender to several times longer than broad; no teeth and no lobes; often with wavy margins.

Flowers are at the end of a stem; coiled; corolla is yellow, orange or red; hoods are yellow to red. Flowering occurs in the spring and extends well into summer.

Fruit is a pod that splits at the seam when mature.

This species does well in cultivation. The root has been used medicinally as an emetic and diuretic. The above-ground parts are reported to be poisonous.

Milkweed is a favored food source for the monarch butterflies. Butterfly eggs are deposited in holes bored along the stem and leaf; newborn feed off the poisonous milk. Consequently, birds don't feed on the monarch because they know it has been contanimated. Therefore, the monarch can live in peace and harmony until it is time to migrate for the winter. Two other butterflies, the Admiral and the Queen, are aware of this wonderful way to stay alive so they tried to copy-cat and evolved to look similar to the monarch -- but it doesn’t always fool the bird.


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