Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is one of the most common host plants for the Monarch Butterfly in the United States. Generally when you think of the name “milkweed” it is this plant. Milkweed can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC Garden Shop and is one of the more common plants in the butterfly garden.
Taxonomy and History of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Taxonomy of Common Milkweed
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was first described from a 1635 specimen collected in Quebec City, Canada. At this time it was called Apocynum majus syriacum rectum. In 1753, Linnaeus renamed it to Asclepias syriaca in Species Plantarum (Gaertner, 1979). Before 2000, the genus Asclepias was in the Milkweed Family (Asclepidiaceae), but it has since been made a sub-family of the Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae) (Endress and Bruyns 2000).
Description and Alternative Names
Common Milkweed grows to about 6 feet (2m) tall and has simple opposite leaves. It generally appears from April to May and flowers with pink to white flowers in June to August.
This plant is also known by the names of butterfly flower, silkweed, swallow-wort, and Virginia milkweed. The genus name, “Asclepias” comes from the name, Aklepios, who was the Greek god of medicine.
Range and Habitat of Common Milkweed
This plant is native to middle and eastern North America. The species has been naturalized in central and southern Europe and is often considered to be a weed. It can also be found in Krygystan, Australia, southeast Africa, and Japan (Cabi.org).
This plant is found in grasslands, both native and cultivated, waste and disturbed lands, and roadsides. It prefers well drained loamy and clayey soils that are somewhat moist. It does best in full sun, but can tolerate light shade.
The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is perhaps the most famous user of this plant. Other species that depend on it include:
|Host Species of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)|
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Host Use|
|Monarch Butterfly||Danaus plexippus||Lays eggs and feeds on leaves|
|Milkweed Leaf Miner||Labidomera clivicollis||Larva feeds on leaves|
|Common Milkweed Bug||Lygaeus kalmii||Lays eggs on milkweed, feeds on flower nectar and seeds|
|Red Milkweed Beetle||Tetraopes tetraophthalmus||specific to milkweed and dogbane plants|
|Milkweed Stem Weevil||Rhyssomatus lineaticollis||feeds on the stems|
|Unexpected Cycnia (a moth)||Cycnia inopinatus||caterpillars feed on the leaves|
|Delicate Cycnia (a moth)||Cycnia tenera||caterpillars feed on the leaves|
|Seed Bug||Neacoryphus bicrucis||caterpillars feed on the leaves|
|Weevil||Gymnetron tetrum||caterpillars feed on the leaves|
References and External Links
Cabi.org. Datasheet on Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed).