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A Comprehensive Guide to 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 Plant (Asclepias physocarpa)
Herbarium Specimen Balloon Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa) — xpda, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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 Flowers — André-Philippe Drapeau Picard, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


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 in a field in Hawaii
Balloon Milkweed in Field — Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons


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


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

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on goldenrod.
Monarch Butterfly on goldenrod — ALAN SCHMIERER from southeast AZ, USA, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bumblebee on pink flower.
Bumblebee on flower — Weerlicht, CC0 1.0, 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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