Hey Karen!
What the hell is milkweed?

I thought I’d given you enough examples of milkweed, but apparently not.  I am a fool.

Don’t tell the blogging bureau.

Depending on where you are Milkweed can look a bit different.  It goes by the scientific name of,


For those of you who are still confused about what North American milkweed looks like …

This is milkweed:

And this is milkweed,

And this is milkweed,

And this is milkweed,

And this is a milkweed pod,

And this is inside a milkweed pod,

And this is milkweed,

And this,

You can find it in ravines, forests, around farmland, at the side of the road, on trails, and sometimes in your garden. Or your neighbour’s garden.  Off the beaten path, on the road less travelled, behind the grocery store parking lot and at the cottage.

And that … is milkweed (Asclepias).


  1. Laura says:

    I live in New Zealand and it’s commonly called ‘Swan Plant’ down here. Maybe it’s the alternate names that are giving rise to confusion?

  2. Pam'a says:

    Also, Monarchs are nutty about aesclepsias, which is a milkweed cousin more often found in urban gardens. It has pretty flowers, and Karen can probably post a picture of THOSE, too, if she feels like it…

    • Pam'a says:

      Er, when I say nutty, I mean they’ll lay their eggs on it.

    • Karen says:

      Yes! That’s milkweed. There a few different types of milkweed (Asclepias) but all are the same plant. They all have the same poison found inside to render Monarchs sickening to its predators. It’s like how there are many different types of roses but they’re still all roses.

      • olivia says:

        i live guyana where can i find that

        • Karen says:

          Olivia – Milkweed grows in the wild. It might be known by a different name in Guyana. Look for it around weedy places like beside the road or in a ravine. It grows in the sun, not the shade. ~ karen!

  3. This milkweed stuff appears to be very closely related to triffids, are we in danger of being overrun do you think?

  4. Polly says:

    Not to be a know-it-all (I’m much too busy for that responsibility), I think that the butterflies are particularly attracted to the flowers, which grow in pink clusters and smell really really really good. Down here in Massachusetts, they bloom in July and August, and then the pods form.

  5. If you Google “Asclepias” you’ll find many other varieties that work. Butterfly weed is one of my favorites. Not to be self serving, but you can go to my Etsy store and see some neat photographs of monarch chrysalises.http://www.etsy.com/shop/boolady
    The other thing that is ruining the butterfly population is the mosquito control companies.When they spray, the mist travels and they kill all stages of the butterfly’s life. If your neighbor is using them, as soon as you find eggs or small cats, bring them inside. Wash the leaves off carefully before using them. http://www.monarchwatch.org/rear/index.htm is also a good site (not that Karen isn’t doing a great job!).

  6. sue says:

    I was going to add that the flowers smell very nice, but I see that Polly has already mentioned that. In fact, the flowers are pretty too, so when I have milkweed in my flower garden, I don’t pull it out. Milkweed are the type of plant that prove that classifying something as a “weed” depends on the eye of the beholder. Since monarchs love this plant, the flowers are pretty and smell really nice, I look upon it as an unusual addition to my flower garden.

  7. Trissta says:

    Oh! I love milkweed! It’s crazy, because I have so many pollinators around my condo because of it and my garden is growing like crazy! Even though many people think it’s a weed, I love it. 🙂

    Karen, I mentioned you on my blog post today! http://www.livingonthechic.com/2011/07/some-diy-fun.html

    Much Love,

  8. Lisa says:

    You can greatly control the “weediness” of the milkweek plant by snipping off the seed pods before the explode and release the seeds. The caterpillars don’t eat those anyway.

    • Karen says:

      Lisa – Really?? I’ve always found the weediness of my milkweed come from the fact that they send out huge runners! I’ll start pod clipping as well and see if that helps! ~ karen

  9. Julie shinnick says:

    So there is someone else who is haunted by visions of the triffids coming to get us!!

    Maybe this is why I have had difficulties with house plants and gave up trying to have them over 15 years ago??
    They always seem to die and maybe it’s because i am killing them without realising why?? (murderer!) Get them before they get you! lol
    Yep Karen, I can’t believe that people were asking you what milkweed was well after all those beautiful shots! Perhaps they were mesmerised by the photography and couldn’t see the milkweed?? dunno!

  10. Kara says:

    This comment has nothing to do with milkweed, actually, so skip on over if you’re a milkweed enthusiast 🙂 I’ve been a non-commenting reader for some weeks now, and decided today to do the rss thing for contest-entry on another blog (Zen of Making – fun) but felt that yours should be my inaugural subscription, so had to pause in the entry process to add your lovely wordsmithing endeavor first. Happy vacay, by the way, and thanks for the chuckles/laughs/guffaws…

  11. amy walters, aDESIGNdock says:

    Kara…well said. Karen…you’re fabulous!

  12. Nancy says:

    I know I am late with this but…I vaguely remember being a kid many decades ago..I believe we would break open the stems and this white liquidity stuff would run out and that was why it was called milkweed…I know my memory is getting old but am I thinking about the same plant???

  13. Nancy says:

    and by saying I am late with this..you can see that I have know idea what the date is…pathetic old lady…lol

  14. Melissa says:

    i spent many a Fall at the back part of my Elementary school in Mpls breaking those Milkweed pods apart and feeling the soft seeds, then Blowing them all over the playground. They were back by the creek along with Cattails.

  15. Dana says:

    thank you!!!

  16. Doris says:

    Just happened across this. 70 yrs ago when I lived in Il. we had milkweed that grew in a lane. I believe if I remember correctly that in the war days back then people collected milkweed pods after they had matured & they were shipped to use the fluffy contents to make parachutes. Maybe someone else has heard of this. Thank You

  17. Carolyn Peterson says:

    I really enjoy your information. Thank you for all the suggestions. A few years ago my step-sons received quilt type blanket that had milkweed used in making them. I looked up info on some of the products and a place in Ogallala Nebraska that had been raising it as a crop. this is the site of some info. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1993/v2-422.html

  18. Sarah says:

    I just hopped over to Google to see what varieties of milkweed grow in Oklahoma, and I discovered that there is a type of milkweed called ‘Hairy Balls.’ Sometimes it’s referred to as ‘Family Jewels.’ Go Googling and see for yourself. You’ll probably want to go with a ‘safe search’ on this one.

  19. gina007 says:

    I ordered some milkweed and some little caterpillars, however they don’t want to eat the new milkweed? It hasn’t been treated and comes from a reputable place, but they came on a thicker leaf ( different species). These leaves are thinner, more narrow, is there anything i can do?

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