Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly-weed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Butterfly Milkweed
Family:Apocynaceae (Dogbane)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry fields, prairies
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat-topped clusters 2 to 3 inches across of up to 25 flowers. Flowers are about 3/8-inch across, have a 5-parted crown with a curved horn projecting from the center of each of the 5 cylindrical hoods, arching over the short column in the center. 5 downward-curved petals flare out beneath. Flower color is primarily orange, but ranges from orange-yellow to red, usually with a yellow central column.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves]  Leaves are 2 to 6 inches long, about 1 inch wide, toothless, finely hairy especially along the veins on the underside, somewhat glossy on the upper surface, pointed at the tip with little or no stalk, and often crowded on the stem. Attachment is mostly alternate though may be opposite on branches. Stems are stout and densely hairy. A plant can take on a bushy appearance from multiple stems and branches.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit]  Erect narrow spindle-shaped pod about 6 inches long, covered in fine hairs. One plant often has a cluster of several pods. Seeds are large and brown with white silken “parachutes” to carry them away in the wind.


Butterfly-weed is often found along railroad beds growing in clumps, in dry fields and prairies and along roadsides. A host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, the flower is a favorite for many other butterflies as well. It makes a fantastic garden plant with a long bloom season and an eye-popping color you don't see in many species. All Asclepias were formerly in family Asclepiadaceae but have been reassigned to Apocynaceae (Dogbane).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken along roadsides and in a private garden in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mark - Nisswa, Along the Paul Bunyan Trail
on: 2010-07-12 19:52:41

During a bike ride in mid-July, we saw bunches of these flowers blooming along the trail.

Posted by: Joe - Anoka Co.
on: 2010-09-07 14:27:39

There are scattered roadside colonies of this flower in northern Anoka County, near the Carlos Avery Wildlife Preserve.

Posted by: Mark - Kasota Prairie
on: 2011-04-18 10:47:19

I saw this in Kasota Prairie throughtout the summertime.

Posted by: Kristin - Shakopee
on: 2011-06-28 09:32:58

This is currently blooming in the open field near Lowes off of Canterbury and 169. Very pretty!

Posted by: Allan - Minneapolis
on: 2011-07-13 13:04:06

These flowers one of the pleasures of a summer walk along the walking/biking trails north of Cedar Lake and south of 394.

Posted by: laura - st. cloud
on: 2011-09-10 21:37:46

They are all over at the Centracare Plaza in st. cloud. Some of them are the brightest orange color I've ever seen. They are so beautiful!

Posted by: Jay - Lake Hiawatha, Minneapolis
on: 2013-07-08 11:16:36

In brilliant flower on July 8, 2013 at northeastern end of Lake Hiawatha in the park near the recreational building. Part of the shoreline restoration effort.

Posted by: Dale - North St.Paul
on: 2013-07-10 21:19:55

I saw them on Gateway Trail while walking my usual 7 miles. Beautiful bright red orangy flowers!

Posted by: Rae - Garden City
on: 2013-07-21 19:16:41

Along the Red Jacket trail near Mankato, it's all over the ditches. Lovely!

Posted by: Jean - Cedar Lake Trail, Minneapolis
on: 2014-06-25 17:40:10

Multiple large clumps along the trail! 6/25/2014

Posted by: Jenn - Great River Bluffs State Park
on: 2014-07-07 22:00:58

Seen in various areas within Great River Bluffs State Park. (Winona)

Posted by: Tom - Northwood Park in New Hope, MN
on: 2015-07-09 08:03:18

It is along the north branch of Bassett Creek.

Posted by: Briana - Martin Co
on: 2015-07-20 13:14:28

Along the HWY 4. Beautiful bright orange flower in a field of green.

Posted by: Patti - Saint Cloud
on: 2015-08-27 19:55:09

When can I plant these seeds? Can they be scattered this fall, or ought I keep them until spring? If I keep them until spring should they be kept in a freezer?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-08-27 21:49:45

Fall is a great time to plant seeds. Many species need to over-winter to germinate.

Posted by: Debbie - Saint Cloud
on: 2015-09-25 13:29:21

I have milkweed on the side of my house and was wondering when can I collect the seeds?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-09-25 13:40:09

Seeds are ripe when the pods start to crack open, but you can pick them while they're still green and they should continue ripening in the pod.

Posted by: Robert - Wabasha county.
on: 2015-12-31 18:46:45

Along the north bound lane of hwy 61,south of Kellogg,mn.

Posted by: Robert - Sunset Pond, Burnsville
on: 2016-06-26 16:06:33

Seen at east side path of Sunset Pond.

Posted by: Jane - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2016-07-22 09:01:38

I had six orange butterfly-weed plants on the edge of my rain garden that the Soil & Water department had suggested to plant on the edge where it wouldn't be as wet. The plants lived and bloomed for three years and then one by one, they all gradually withered and died this year while they were blooming. I have one in a different spot which does not get much water, and is still alive. I have sandy soil, which they are supposed to like. Perhaps with all the rain this year it got too wet for them and maybe the taproot rotted? I am considering planting a 6-pack of swamp milkweed in their place, but am concerned it would be too aggressive and out-compete the coneflower and asters. The coneflowers are loving the excess moisture this year. Is there something else I could consider planting in addition to swamp milkweed and more coneflower?

Posted by: Davis - Midway township cottonwood county
on: 2017-06-21 18:53:10

Found about a dozen plants in a remnant near the watonwan river.

Posted by: David G - Shoreview
on: 2018-06-14 13:11:07

They are starting to bloom now (June 14) off of Rice Creek North Trail in Ramsey County (NW Shoreview).

Posted by: Kathryn - Lake Elmo
on: 2018-07-13 21:41:59

This grows in abundance in the Lake Elmo park reserve.

Posted by: Jennifer Lamb - Sand Prairie Wildlife Management Area
on: 2018-07-21 10:05:21

Seen blooming on 20 July 2018 along Prairie Trail at Sand Prairie WMA

Posted by: Ted Christenson - Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, St. Michael
on: 2020-06-20 15:41:35

Lots of these striking orange wildflowers blooming today in the meadows at at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve.

Posted by: Emily - Fort Ridgley State Park
on: 2020-06-28 18:46:23

All over Fort Ridgley State Park and surrounding area, June 2020

Posted by: Randy Blase - Crow-Hassan Park Resrve
on: 2020-09-17 18:07:52

On June 22 and 23, 2020 we saw several of these plants blooming in various meadows of the park. Best of all I saw some of them opening the pods and seeds catching the breeze on 9-15-20.

Posted by: Katherine E Robertson - Eagan
on: 2021-06-21 13:45:52

Surrounding the Eagan Art House in Eagan Minnesota. They look lovely.

Posted by: Tom Ties -Rollingstone - Elba
on: 2021-07-16 17:32:00

About a dozen plants in a ditch growing in very sandy and rocky soil near Whitewater State Park

Posted by: Nancy Welsh - Saint Paul
on: 2022-07-02 06:22:23

Atop Pilot Knob past Acacia Cemetery entrance in St Paul.

Posted by: Nancy R Benzinger - Champlin
on: 2024-06-27 15:08:59

These flowers are prevalent in the Elm Creek Park reserve in Champlin and Dayton, MN. They are beautiful!

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