Asclepias sullivantii (Sullivant's Milkweed)
|Also known as:||Smooth Milkweed, Prairie Milkweed|
|Habitat:||sun; moist prairies|
|Bloom season:||June - August|
|Plant height:||2 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are about 1/3 inch across and ½ to ¾ inch long with rich purple petals contrasted with a smooth rose/pink hood and horns. The 5 petals fall away freely, tips angled down with an open waist between petal base and hood base. The 5 hoods are short and thick, not extending half their length above flower center. Horns are long and narrow, appressed down into flower center and overlaping each other's tips. Clusters are convex, 2½ to 3 inches wide with up to 20 flowers each, at the top of the plant and 2 or more arising from upper leaf axils.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are 1½ to 3 inches wide, 4 to 6 inches long, narrowly egg-shaped to oblong, opposite, toothless, hairless, slightly heart-shaped at the base with little to no leaf stalk or somewhat clasping the stem, and are mostly upswept, revealing the creamy colored or reddish midvein from underneath. The side veins on the leaf surface are all connected and do not extend to the edge of the leaf, creating a border effect all around the edge. Stems are hairless, sturdy, single and unbranched.
Fruit is a pod containing numerous flat, brown seeds with a tuft of white hairs to carry them off in the wind.
Another rare Minnesota milkweed, its historical range has always been limited to our southern central counties. According to the DNR, nearly all of its tall grass prairie habitat has been converted to agriculture and its mostly been able to survive along abandoned railroad rights-of-way. It was listed as a state Threatened species in 1984. Some websites claim it can be grown quite easily on richer garden soils but I have no first hand experience with this at home. There are several pink to purplish milkweeds with opposite, oval or oblong leaves. A distinguishing feature of Sullivant's Milkweed is its overall hairlessness—other species have hairy leaves and/or stems.
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- Sullivant's Milkweed with the rare Rattlesnake Master and Wild Quinine
Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk, taken at Iron Horse Prairie SNA in Dodge County
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?