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Asclepias exaltata (Poke milkweed)
Smith, R.W.

Asclepias exaltata

Asclepias exaltata L.

Poke Milkweed

Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)

Synonym(s): Asclepias bicknellii, Asclepias phytolaccoides


USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Asclepias exaltata is a tall milkweed frequently found on the edges of forests. It resembles the Common Milkweed, A. syriaca, and has been known to hybridize with this species in areas where both occur in close proximity. The leaves can be quite large on plants growing in moist shaded conditions. Umbels are pendulous with relatively few flowers. Strikingly aromatic when in bloom (Webref 20).


From the Image Gallery

41 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Lanceolate , Ovate
Inflorescence: Umbel
Fruit Type: Follicle
Size Notes: 2-6 ft (60-182 cm) but can exceed 6 ft under favorable conditions.
Leaf: Elongated, narrow elliptic ending in a sharp tip, up to11 inches but generally 2-10 in (5-25 1/2 cm) long and 1-4 in (2 1/2 - 10 cm) wide. Top of the leaf is smooth and underside is hairy. Veins in the leaves have a purple tone to them in contrast to the green color of the leaves.
Flower: Umbels weep down with each flower on a long pedicel with 10+/- flowers per umbel. Color is white with lavender to green tinges. Stems of the umbels are a purplish color. Horns protrude through the hoods. Corolla reflexes backward. Corolla, hoods, and horns are a light pink color.
Fruit: Seed color is dark Brown.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: CT , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: ON , QC
Native Habitat: Shores, woodlands, and woodland edges.

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Description: Seems to require moderate moisture and rich organic content.
Conditions Comments: Full sunlight to partial shade along forest edges.


Warning: All parts. Toxic only in large quantities. Syptoms include, vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms. Toxic Principle: Cardiac glycosides and resinoids. (Poisonous Plants of N.C. State)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees
Special Value to Honey Bees
Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Natural Biodiversity - Johnstown, PA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 20 - Milkweed Profiles (0) Monarch Watch

Additional resources

USDA: Find Asclepias exaltata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Asclepias exaltata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Asclepias exaltata


Record Modified: 2016-08-05
Research By: TWC Staff

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