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Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa)

Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) is a herbaceous perennial that grows in open areas such as fields, meadows, disturbed areas, and roadsides. This plant is a host for butterflies of the Danaus genus, which includes Monarchs. This plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and History of Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa)

Herbarium specimen of Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa)
Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) — Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium, CC0 1.0, via Index Kewensis

Taxonomy

Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) was originally described by Ernst Heinrich Frederich Meyer in 1838 as Gomphocarpus physocarpa. It was renamed to Asclepias physocarpa in 1896 by Rudolf Schlechter. This species is a member of the Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae).

Balloon Milkweed Description and Alternative Names

White flowers of balloon milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa)
Balloon Milkweed flower — Mary Crickmore, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Description

Balloon milkweed is a herbaceous perennial that grows from 4 to 6 feet tall. The opposite, simple, entire leaves range from 3 to 4 inches in length and 0.5 inches in width.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known as the hairy balls, balloonplant, bishop’s balls, nailhead, and swan plant.

Range and Habitat

Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) in the field
Balloon Milkweed in field — Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

This species has been planted in South Carolina, Hawaii, and California. This plant is native to Africa.

Habitat

Balloon Milkweed is generally found growing in open areas such as meadows, fields, grasslands, disturbed areas, and roadsides.

Monarch Butterfly on a goldenrod
Monarch Butterfly — Nicholas A. Tonelli from Northeast Pennsylvania, USA, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bumblebee on a pink flower
Bumble Bee on a flower — Weerlicht, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Species

This plant is a host butterflies of the Danaus genus, which includes Monarchs.

Other Wildlife Value

This plant is used as a nectar source for butterflies and other insects.

Interesting Facts

The species name, physocarpus, means of bladder fruit. (Missouri Botanical Garden).

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