Members of the genus Asclepias produce some of the most complex flowers in the plant kingdom, comparable to orchids in complexity. An important nectar source for native bees, wasps, and other nectar-seeking insects, though non-native honey bees commonly get trapped in the stigmatic slits and die.
Milkweeds are also the larval food source for monarch butterflies and their relatives, as well as a variety of other herbivorous insects (including numerous beetles, moths, and true bugs) specialized to feed on the plants despite their chemical defences.
Butterfly gardens, meadows, prairies, or naturalized/native plant areas. This plant is considered by many gardeners to be too vigorous and weedy for borders.
Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Drought tolerant. Easily grown from seed, and will self-seed in the landscape if seed pods are not removed prior to splitting open. Can spread somewhat rapidly by rhizomes.
The flower heads can be fried in batter and eaten. The milky sap is poisonous.
Some shared traits of Canada’s milkweeds, however, are a large round or flat cluster of late spring or summer-blooming flowers. Their petals fold backwards on the stem and the centre of the flower is comprised of five hood-like structures within which is a protruding ‘horn’ as well as the plant’s nectar. Their leaves and stems typically have a milky sap, hence their name, Milkweed.Ripe milkweed seed pods are elongated and, once hardened, open with a slit along one side to reveal many brown seeds attached to thin silky white fibres that fluff up to catch the wind and carry their seeds farther afield.