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Butterflyweed Asclepias tuberosa

Butterflyweed is a native perennial that occurs in open woods and fields throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.  It is found in Florida throughout the state except for the extreme southern tip of the peninsula.  It prefers well drained sandy soil with full sun, but can tolerate some partial shade.  Other common names for this plant include: Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed and Pleurisy Root.  This plant belongs to the Dogbane family (Apocynaceae) and the Milkweed subfamily (Asclepiadoideae).

This plant grows to an average height of 2 feet or more.  The rough hairy stem can be erect or sprawling.  The stem can branch near the top and each branch is topped by a flat cluster of small orange flowers.  The clusters can be 2-5 inches wide and contain up to 25 flowers.  The stiff lance-shaped leaves are attached alternately along the stem.  These leaves are typically 2-4 inches long and about 1/2-inch wide.  The leaves are sessile, meaning they have no stalks.

The small orange or reddish-orange flowers are about 3/8-inch wide.  Each flower has 5 sepals and 5 petals that are curved downward.  The top of the flower has a corona that consists of 5 hood-like forms facing towards the center of the flower.  Inside the corona are 5 stamens fused to the ovary.  The flowers bloom from May-September.

After the flowers fade away, seed pods are formed.  They are grayish green in color, averaging 4-8 inches long and 1-2 inches wide.  They eventually open to release their seeds which are provided with silky ‘parachutes’ that are carried away with the wind.

The flowers provide a nectar source for many insects, such as bees and butterflies. The plant also serves a larval food source for the Gray Hairstreak, Monarch and Queen butterflies.

The photos on this page were taken in Deep Creek in Charlotte County. Additional information on this plant may be found by clicking on the following links:

     Atlas of Florida Plants

     Florida Plant Encyclopedia

     Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center

     USDA PLANTS Database