California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Asclepias tuberosa * Butterfly Weed

This Butterfly Weed is a half hardy perennial, sometimes it comes back from the roots. The Asclepias tuberosa flowers are ornate yellow and orange. The orange portions are reflexed, or bent back, sepals. The real reason most people plant Asclepias tuberosa is the Monarch Butterflies that come to feed on the leaves. The Monarch Butterfly will incorporate some of the toxins in the leaves into their bodies. This makes them taste bad. Bad enough that the Scrub Jays leave them alone. People often buy chrysalis' to get the butterflies started in their own yards. I have found Asclepias tuberosa plants perform best with moderate water in light shade. The Acmon Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Hedgerow Hairstreak, Common Buckeye, Northern White Skipper, Mormon Metalmark, California Common Ringlet, Great Purple Hairstreak, Giant Swallowtail, and Monarch Butterflies will use Asclepias tuberosa and a nectar resource. Several other plants carry the butterfly name in their common names, Buddleia and Clerodendrum ugandense. A similar looking butterfly species the, Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, is attracted to the passion flower vines but that does not have the toxin. The birds leave it alone just the same. Asclepias tuberosa is a frequent addition to the butterfly garden and is likely the most frequently available Asclepias at the nurseries.

Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed

Foliage of Asclepias tuberosa the Butterfly Weed being eaten by a 4th instar Monarch Caterpillar. High resolution photos are part of our garden image collection.

Tarantula Hawks, Carpenter Bees and Yellow Faced Bumblebees feeding on nectar from Asclepias eriocarpa, Woollypod Milkweed. Milkweeds are important to so much more wildlife beyond butterflies. High resolution videos are part of our garden image collection.

Plants from the old Asclepidacea Family featured on this site. This is now considered a subfamily in the Apocynaceae Family or Dogbane Family. This is relevant because these plants are nectar and caterpillar food for the Monarch Butterflies:
Asclepias angustifolia * Arizona Milkweed
Asclepias californica * California Milkweed
Asclepias cordifolia * Purple Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica * Tropical Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica Red Butterflies * Red Butterflies Tropical Milkweed
Asclepias curassavica Silky Gold * Silky Gold Tropical Milkweed
Asclepias eriocarpa * Woollypod Milkweed, Indian Milkweed, Kotolo Milkweed
Aslepias erosa * Desert Milkweed
Asclepias fascicularis * Narrow Leaf Milkweed
Asclepias linaria * Pine Needle Milkweed
Asclepias speciosa * Showy Milkweed
Asclepias subulata * Rush Milkweed, Skeleton Milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa * Butterfly Weed
Other milkweed relatives:
Araujia sericifera * Bladder Vine, Cruel Vine, Moth Vine
Gomphocarpus fruticosus * Swan Milkweed, Narrow Leaf Cotton Plant
Gomphocarpus physocarpus * Family Jewels, Hairy Balls
Hoya carnosa * Wax Vine