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Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)


Common Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca
(Family: Asclepiadaceae)

Image by Kendall Villmer


Adult: Common Milkweed is a perennial herb growing from deep rhizomes.  They can grow anywhere from 1.9-6.5 feet tall.

Stem: Sometimes hairy

 Leaves: The leaves are typically sparsely hairy above and densely hairy below. The petiole is 0.2-1.4cm long. The leaves are ovate to elliptical.

Flowers: The inflorescence occurs in the upper leaf axils, and there are 20-130 flowers per inflorescence. The lowers are typically small 0.4-0.7 inches.

Flowering: Typically occurs from March to August.


Habitat: Common milkweed grows in sandy, clayey, or rocky calcareous soils. It occurs along the banks or flood plains of lakes, ponds, and waterways, in prairies, forest margins, roadsides, and waste places.


Uses: Milkweed has many uses ranging from making rope to contraceptives as once used by the Meskwaki. The Cherokee drank infusions of milkweed and Virgin’s bower to cure backaches. The white sap found within the plant has been used for treating warts, ringworm as well as bee stings.


Conservation Status: Known to be common in Kansas.



Notes: Milkweed may be toxic when taken internally. Milkweed species as a group are known to contain cardiac glycosides that are poisonous to humans and livestock, as well as other substances that may account for their medicinal effect. Resinoids, glycosides, and a small amount of alkaloids are present in all parts of the plant. Symptoms of poisoning by the cardiac glycosides include dullness, weakness, bloating, inability to stand or walk, high body temperature, rapid and weak pulse, difficulty breathing, dilated pupils, spasms, and coma.


Plant Materials <>
Plant Fact Sheet/Guide

National Plant Data Center




Submitted by Kendall Villmer, July 2012.

Wichita State University
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