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Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is a herbaceous perennial that grows in open areas such as fields, woodlands, and roadsides that are mesic to dry. It is the host plant for two species of butterflies, two moths, and is a nectar source for other insects and hummingbirds. The purplish colored flowers appear in the spring. This plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and History of Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Herbarium specimen of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
Herbarium Specimen of Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) — Kathryn Kalmbach Herbarium


Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) was described by John Torrey, an American botanist, in 1828. This plant is a member of the Dogbane Family (Apocynaceae).

Showy Milkweed Description and Alternative Names

Pinkish flowers of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa).
Flower Cluster of Showy Milkweed (Asclepis speciosa) — Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Showy milkweed is a herbaceous perennial that grows to 1 to 3 feet tall. The opposite, elliptic to ovate, simple, entire leaves range up to 8 inches in length and about 4 inches in width.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known as Greek Milkweed.

Range and Habitat

Meadow in Lexington, MA
Meadow Habitat — Daderot, CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Range map of showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) in the United States and Canada.

This species native to the mid-west and western United States.


Showy Milkweed grows in open sunny places such as fields that are mesic to dry.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Hummingbird — mefisher, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Red-belted clearwing moth (Synanthedon myopaeformi).
Red-Belted Clearwing Moth on Leaf — Patrick Clement from West Midlands, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Species

This plant is a host to the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and the Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus). For moths, it hosts the Dogbane Tiger Moth (Cycnia tenera) and the red-belted clearwing moth (Synanthedon myopaeformis).

Other Wildlife Value

The flowers are used as a nectar source by other butterflies, bees, insects, and hummingbirds.

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Asclepias, is from Asklepios, the Greek God of Medicine. The species name, speciosa, means showy (Missouri Botanical Garden).

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