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Asclepias (Swamp Milkweed, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Flower)

The genus Asclepias, named for the Greek god of healing, contains around 140 species of hardy perennials that have long been used as medicinal plants. The common names Butterfly Weed and Butterfly Flower should tell you how much these plants are beloved by butterflies.

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More Information About Asclepias

Some asclepias are popular perennial flowering plants that attract butterflies with their brightly colored flower clusters (hence the common name Butterfly weed or Butterfly flower). The flowers, leaves and stems of this perennial wildflower are toxic, but butterflies that eat asclepias store the toxins in their bodies becoming toxic to any birds that subsequently snack on them.

The brightly colored flowers are also popular with hummingbirds. We have collected a few special asclepias selections hoping that gardeners will broaden their botanical horizons with butterfly weed. Many Asclepias species are North Carolina native plants for those of you inclined to favor them.

Butterfly flower is drought-tolerant and prefers full sun and well-drained, somewhat dry soil. It is a tough, low maintenance plants which makes butterfly flower perfect for rain gardens. Some butterfly flowers are also salt tolerant.

Broken stems will produce a milky latex sap that is a skin irritant to some so take care when pruning butterfly weed. The attractive, long lasting flowers of Asclepias are followed in the late summer by spindle shaped seed pods that split open to release dandelion-like seeds attached to a fibrous parachute.

Asclepias is in the dogbane family ands so butterfly flower is a botanical cousin of mandevilla, amsonia, and vinca.