Plant of the Week: Butterfly Milkweed
This beautiful prairie wildflower has weathered the recent drought well at Nature Boardwalk. Butterfly milkweed is a tuberous, rooted perennial. It grows in clumps to 1–3 feet tall and features clusters of bright orange to yellow-orange flowers atop upright to reclining, hairy stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves. The complex flowers are divided into five parts with upward-projecting hood-like nectaries and conventional petals below. (A nectary is the nectar-producing location of the flower, typically held in some sort of a cup or tube at the end of fused petals.) Spindle-shaped seed pods split open when ripe, releasing papery, brown, silky-tailed seeds for dispersal by the wind. The flowers and leaves are a nectar and food source for many butterflies. The plant’s other common name, pleurisy root, refers to past historic use of the roots as a folk medicine to treat lung inflammations.
Common Names: butterfly milkweed, pleurisy root, butterfly weed
Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa
Native Status: United States to northern Mexico
Plant Type: herbaceous perennial
Height: 1–2.5 feet
Flowering Time: June–August
Flower Color: yellow, orange
Interest: Flowers bloom in summer. Fruit/seed production begins in summer and ends in fall. Attracts butterflies.