Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Asclepias tuberosa

Butterflyweed, Butterfly milkweed, Orange milkweed, Pleurisy root, Chigger flower

Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)
Cressler, Alan
This bushy, 1 1/2-2 ft. perennial is prized for its large, flat-topped clusters of bright-orange flowers. The leaves are mostly alternate, 1 1/22 1/4 inches long, pointed, and smooth on the edge. The yellow-orange to bright orange flower clusters, 25 inches across, are at the top of the flowering stem. The abundance of stiff, lance-shaped foliage provides a dark-green backdrop for the showy flower heads.

This showy plant is frequently grown from seed in home gardens. Its brilliant flowers attract butterflies. Because its tough root was chewed by the Indians as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments, Butterfly Weed was given its other common name, Pleurisy Root. Although it is sometimes called Orange Milkweed, this species has no milky sap.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate , Linear , Oblong
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: 1-2 ft (30-60 cm).
Leaf: Linear to oblong to lanceolate. Bottom of leaf is a lighter green then the top of the leaf. 2-4 in (5-10cm) long and 3/8 in (1 -2 cm) wide.
Flower: Corolla, hoods, and horns are orange. Glabrous. Hoods are 3/16 - in (5-6 mm) long, and horns just slightly smaller 1/8 in (3 mm). Horns protrude through the hoods. Corolla reflexes backward. The flowers are usually orange, rarely yellow or red. Populations west of the 100th meridian tend to be dominated by yellow colored flowers.
Fruit: Pod color is grayish green. Narrow, 4-8 in (10-20 cm) long by 1-2 in (2 6 cm) wide. Covered in short hairs.
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Orange , Yellow
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AZ , AR , CA , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , QC
Native Distribution: Ontario to Newfoundland; New England south to Florida; west to Texas; north through Colorado to Minnesota.
Native Habitat: Grows in prairies, open woods, canyons, and hillsides throughout most of the state, common in eastern two thirds of Texas, uncommon in the Hill Country. Plant in well-drained sand, loam, clay, or limestone.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Prefers well-drained sandy soils. Tolerates drought.
Conditions Comments: Butterfly weed has an interesting and unusual flower structure. Plant it among other mid-sized perennials. Inevitably butterfly weed will get aphids; you can leave them for ladybugs to eat or spray the insects and foliage with soapy water. Aphids can also be removed by blasting the plant with a high pressure stream of water.


Use Ornamental: Butterfly weed makes a delightful cut flower. Strong color, Blooms ornamental, Showy, Long-living, Perennial garden.
Use Medicinal: Its tough root was chewed by First Nations People as a cure for pleurisy and other pulmonary ailments explaining its other common name, pleurisy root. (Niering) Fresh root chewed for bronchitis and other respiratory complaints. Tea of root for diarrhea.
Use Other: This showy plant is frequently grown from seed in home gardens.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Roots, plant sap from all parts. Not edible. Toxic only if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms. Toxic Principle: Resinoid, cardiac glycoside. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Hummingbirds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Grey Hairstreak, Monarch, Queens
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Asclepias tuberosa is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
(Danaus plexippus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
(Danaus gilippus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2014-11-02