Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly Milkweed Chigger Weed Pleurisy Root Seed and Plants

(uh-SKLEE-pea-us  too-ber-ROW-suh)

Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers
Native Wild Flower Seed & Plants for Home Landscaping & Prairie Restoration

Photos by cj Asclepias tuberosa picture, butterflyweed picture Habitat Bloom
Period
Color Height
Inches
Moisture Plant
Spacing
Lifespan
asclepias tuberosa, buterfly milkweed picture Sun to
Lt. Shade
May to September orange 18 to 30 Dry to
Average
16 to 30 Perennial 

  seedpod picture

For other flowers visit the wildflower seed list , to order copy order form or
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Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed potted plants are available $5.00 each plus Boxing/Shipping.
We accept payment by check or money order and through the paypal website.  
Please contact us by email for shipping charges on potted plants

 Asclepias tuberosa
  Butterfly Milkweed

approximate
number of seeds

approximate coverage
in square feet

1 packet -  $2.50 + shipping

100 25 sq ft

1 ounce - $24.00

 3685 180 sq ft

1 pound - $220.00 

 58,960 2,880 sq ft

Butterfly Milkweed seeds may be available at wholesale price for larger quantities

     Asclepias tuberosa, (Butterfly milkweed, pleurisy root, chigger weed) is a favorite wildflower of flower gardeners and butterflies.  Often several different species of butterflies are feeding on Butterfly Milkweed's nectar at once and it is a favorite host plant for the Monarch butterfly caterpillar.  Asclepias tuberosa plants are topped with clusters of deep red to orange or pale yellow flowers on multiple stems rising from a common base with each small flower having 5 curved petals surrounding 5 contrasting light pink to whitish hoods provides exquisite beauty.  The plant typically blooms sometime during June, July and August.   Butterfly weed seeds germinate without pretreatment.  

    Plant Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed in full sun to light shade in well drained soil in the butterfly garden.  Plant with other native prairie wildflowers like Dalea (purple prairie clover), Echinacea pallida (pale purple coneflower), Echinacea paradoxa (yellow coneflower), Liatris (blazingstars), Oenothera (Missouri primrose), Rudbeckia (Missouri black-eyed susan), Solidago (showy goldenrod).

Warning: Milkweed may be toxic when taken internally, without sufficient preparation.     

  Ethnobotanic: Milkweed has been used for fiber, food, and medicine by people all over the United States and southern Canada.  Fibers from the stems of milkweed have been identified in prehistoric textiles in the Pueblo region.  Tewa-speaking people of the Rio Grande still make string and rope from these fibers.  At the Zuni Pueblo, the silky seed fibers are spun on a hand-held wooden spindle and made into yarn and woven into fabric, especially for dancers.  Pueblo people ate green milkweed pods and uncooked roots from one of the species that forms fleshy tubers underground.

  Milkweeds supply tough fibers for making cords and ropes, and for weaving a coarse cloth.  Milkweed stems are collected after the stalks senesce in late fall to early winter.  The dried stalks are split open to release the fibers.  Milkweed fibers are sometimes mixed with fibers of Indian-hemp (Apocynum cannabinum).  The bark is removed and the fibers released by first rubbing between the hands and then drawing the fibers over a hard surface.  The cord is formed by twisting the fiber opposite each other and twining them together.  Often this is accomplished by rolling the fibers on the thigh, while twisting them together.

  The young shoots, stems, flower buds, immature fruits, and roots of butterfly milkweed were boiled and eaten as a vegetable by various indigenous groups of eastern and mid-western America. 

 Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed has many medicinal uses.  The Omahas and Poncas ate the raw root of the butterfly milkweed for bronchial and pulmonary troubles.  Butterfly milkweed root was also chewed and placed on wounds, or dried, pulverized, and blown into wounds.  The Omaha tribe used butterfly milkweed medicine for rites belonging to the Shell Society.  The Dakotas used the butterfly milkweed as an emetic.  The Menominis considered the butterfly milkweed, which they called the "deceiver," one of their most important medicines. 

  Generalized medicinal uses for milkweed species include 1) its use in a salve for scrofulous swelling, 2) as a diarrhea medicine, 3) drunk by mothers unable to produce milk, 4) medicine for snow blindness and other forms of blindness, 5) relief of sore throat, 6) applied chewed root for swelling and rashes, 7) to expel tapeworm, 8) to treat colic, 9) to act as contraceptives, and 10) to cure snakebite. 

  European Americans used Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed, called "pleurisy root", to relieve inflammation of the lining of the lungs and thorax, and to relieve bronchial and pulmonary trouble.  Pleurisy root is a stimulant to the vagus nerve, producing perspiration, expectoration, and bronchial dilation.  As its name signifies, it is useful for pleurisy and mild pulmonary edema, increasing fluid circulation, cilia function, and lymphatic drainage.  The root of the butterfly milkweed, was officially listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1905 and in the National Formulary from 1916 to 1936.

  Milkweed species, as a group, are known to contain cardiac glycosides that are poisonous both to humans and to livestock, as well as other substances that may account for their medicinal effect.  Resinoids, glycosides, and a small amount of alkaloids are present in all parts of the plant.  Symptoms of poisoning by the cardiac glycosides include dullness, weakness, bloating, inability to stand or walk, high body temperature, rapid and weak pulse, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, spasms, and coma.

  The cardiac glycoside in milkweed has also been useful as a chemical defense for monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).  Chemicals from the milkweed plant make the monarch caterpillar's flesh distasteful to most predators.  Monarch butterflies are specific to milkweed plants.  This is the only type of plant on which the eggs are laid and the larvae will feed and mature into a chrysalis.  Eggs are laid on the underside of young healthy leaves.  Monarch, Queen, and Viceroy butterflies are Müllerian mimics, all are toxic, and have co-evolved similar warning patterns to avoid predation.

  Wildlife: Milkweed species are attractive to many insect species, including the large milkweed bug, common milkweed bug, red milkweed beetle, blue milkweed beetle, and bees.  Accordingly, this is a wonderful horticultural plant for landscaping to attract butterflies (particularly monarchs), whose numbers are declining and migratory routes changing due to lack of appropriate habitat.  Butterfly milkweed also has strikingly beautiful flowers.

  Caution: At one time, Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed was classified as a noxious weed due to reported toxic effects on livestock, and efforts were made to eradicate it.  Milkweeds are thought to be poisonous to cows and sheep.  Milkweed also can have invasive characteristics in disturbed areas.

  Description - General: Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae).  Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed is a perennial herb 3-9 dm tall with woody rootstocks.  According to Kelly Kindscher (1992), "Asclepias comes from the name of the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios.  The species name, tuberosa,  means full of swellings or knobs, referring to the enlarged root system."  Butterfly milkweed stems are hairy, erect, and grow in numerous clumps.  There is a watery sap within the stems and leaves.  The leaves are alternate, simple, crowded, lance-shaped, 5-10 cm long, shiny green, smooth above and velvety beneath.  The flowers are in showy, rounded to flat-topped groups near the ends of branches.  Each flower has 5 petals, bent downward, orange to red or sometimes yellow, topped by a crown of 5 erect hoods, each one containing a short horn.  Fruits are hairy, spindle-shaped pods 8-15 cm long.  The numerous seeds each have a tuft of long white hairs at the tip.

Distribution - Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed grow in clumps beside roadways, on abandoned farmlands, and in other open areas throughout the United States.  Butterfly milkweed grows on sandy, loamy, or rocky limestone soils of prairies, open woodlands, roadsides, and disturbed areas similar to other milkweed species.  For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

  Establishment

Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed is easily propagated by both seed and rhizome cuttings.  Both seedlings and cuttings will usually bloom in their second year, although cuttings will occasionally bloom during their first year.  Seeds and plants of selected cultivars are available from many nurseries.  When the roots of the butterfly milkweed were more commonly harvested for their medicinal use, the plants were dug when dormant in the late fall.  Butterfly milkweed increases by underground shoots and can be invasive.  It is ideal in semi-dry places where it can spread without presenting problems for other ornamental species.

  Seed Collections

Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed is easily propagated from seed.  Collect seeds after the pods have ripened, but before they have split open.  The seeds are wind dispersed, so be careful when gathering to place in a paper or burlap bag to avoid losing them.  Butterfly milkweed seeds should be cold-treated for three months.  Seeds can be directly sewn into the ground in the fall.  The seed is very viable.  It is not certain how long you can store the seeds. 

  Whole Plant Collections

Propagation by cuttings of the tuberous rhizome of Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed is also easy and reliable.  The cuttings should be made when the plant is dormant.  Each piece of the rhizome should have at least one bud (they are about two inches apart).  Timing of propagation is important.  Harvest or divide Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed plants and get the plants in the ground by late fall so they can develop enough root growth to survive the winter.  Irrigation the first year will improve survival, and by the second year the root system should be well enough established so plants will survive on their own. Both seedlings and cuttings will usually bloom in their second year, although cuttings will occasionally bloom during their first year (Kindscher 1992).

    Native Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed is an attractive plant occurring naturally in dry open woods, savannas, prairies, glades, old fields and roadsides .  Asclepiadaceae ( Milkweed Family)

The map below shows areas where native Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed plants grow wild but it can be planted and will grow over a much wider area than shown.  
USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 9.

Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly Milkweed

Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Michigan

Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina

Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin

State Distributional Map for asclepias tuberosa, butterfly milkweed

Alabama
Arizona

Use the chart below for shipping charges on flower seeds, to order copy the order form or email questions, comments & orders to john

please contact us by email for shipping charges on potted plants

The minimum seed order amount is $10, this can be a combination of different seeds.

subtotal for flower seeds 

shipping charge for seeds

seed orders up to  $20.00    =    $3.00 shipping
$20.01 - $50.00    =    $4.00 shipping
$50.01-$100.00    =    $5.00 shipping

over $100.00    =    5 % of subtotal

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Plant distribution map complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
  (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.