Asclepias incarnata Indiana Dunes

Family:     Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     60-183 cm (2-6 ft)

Blooming: July-Oct.


Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata  L.

Flowers: small, 5-parted flower that spreads from a common point in clusters and blooms in late summer. The clusters are up to 9 cm (3.5 in) across at top of the stem. These clusters are terminal in loose umbels. The flowers are pink with a white center and a soft pleasant smell. It has been known to produce completely white flowers, but this is rare.

Leaves: simple, lance-shaped to oblong, no teeth on the margins and short stalks. The leaves are up to 15 cm (6 in) long by 3.8 cm (1.5 in) wide. They are evenly spaced along the stem. Very Fragrant! White sap is present when the leaves are broken. Leaf arrangement is opposite.

Fruits: smooth, lance-shaped, green follicle up to 10 cm (4 in) long. They turn tan and papery splitting to expose brown seeds with long silky white tufts of hair.

Sun: full to part sun

Ideal conditions: wet soil in full sun to partial shade

INPAWS Native Communities: Water's Edge (sun)

Asclepias incarnata at Indiana Dunes

Comments: Unlike other milkweeds that grow in Northwest Indiana, Swamp milkweed prefers wet soil and has narrow, long leaves.

It was thought that swamp milkweed helped the mother relax in child birth. It was also touted as a remedy for "coughs, colds and rheumatic troubles" as well as a better tool than butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) as a remedy for ​amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) (Fyfe and Scudder 1914). Swamp milkweed may be toxic if taken internally.

Etymology: The genus Asclepias was named by Carl Linnaeus after the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius.  The name, incarnata, comes from the translation, "to make flesh, real; with human form".  This is due to the pink, flesh-like color of the flower.




photo by Nathanael Pilla

photo by Nathanael Pilla

Asclepias incarnata - Jenny Allison

photo by Jenny Allison


Fyfe, J.W. and J.M. Scudder. 1914. specific Diagnosis and specific Medication. John K. Scudder Publisher, Cincinnati, Ohio. pp. 394.

Landscape:  Swamp milkweed draws all sorts of pollinators especially monarchs and bumblebees. It has big, beautiful blossoms that shine deep pink into the landscape.  It can be shade tolerant, but needs wet soils. A wonderful plant to place in your rain garden or if you wanted to add color to your wet ditch. And... it is deer resistant and smells amazing!!!

Species Present and Native