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Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca

The common milkweed has clumps of small, pink to purplish flowers. (Image credit: Arthur T. LaBar/Flickr)
The common milkweed has clumps of small, pink to purplish flowers. (Image credit: Arthur T. LaBar/Flickr)

Common milkweed is a perennial plant with small pink to purplish flowers. It can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and is a staple for monarch butterflies. 

Appearance:

Common milkweed is a tall, perennial plant that can grow to be four to six feet tall. Its pink to purplish flowers form in ball-shaped clumps. Its stem is hairy and exudes a milky fluid when broken, and it has large, thick leaves that grow to be between four and eight inches in length. The plant’s seed pods are pointed with a warty surface. They open to release seeds that are small, round and covered with small hairy fibers.

Habitat:

This plant can be found in a variety of habitats. It does well in disturbed areas, such as croplands, pastures, fields, roadsides and ditches.

Range:

Common milkweed—as the name suggests—has a wide range from southern Canada down to Georgia and Kansas. It is found throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

Predators:

Milkweed serves as an important food source for many insects, particularly monarch butterflies.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Common milkweed plants bloom in early to mid-spring. They reproduces through pods that are full of small seeds covered in hairs. When those pods open in fall and early winter, the seeds are released and carried by the wind.

Other Facts:

  • Common milkweed is also known as silk grass, common silkweed and Virginia silk
  • Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed as it is the single “host plant” and food source for the insect. Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed plants, while adults forage for flower nectar. Females lay their eggs on the underside of the plant’s leaves.
  • Milkweed produces toxic chemicals that accumulate in the monarch butterfly’s body, giving them their bright orange color as a warning to predators.

Sources and Additional Information:




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