Asclepias syriaca Indiana Dunes

Family:     Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     up to 215 cm (up to 7 ft)

Blooming: June-Aug.


Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca L.

Flowers: small, 5-parted flower that spreads from a common point in clusters and blooms throughout the summer. Its color is a pink to purplish white. The flowers smell fragrant.

Leaves: simple, opposite leaves up to 28 cm (11 in) long. The leaves are softly hairy underneath and sometimes hairy on the top. Leaf arrangement is opposite.

Fruits: large follicles with hairy wart like characters called tubercules which turn a grayish brown and split open releasing the brown seeds which are attached to white hairs called a "coma".

Sun: Full to part sun

Asclepias syriaca at Indiana Dunes

Comments: Also commonly called, "silkweed" or "Virginia silkweed". It can grow in solitary form or colonial.  The tubercules give the seedhead (follicle) a prickly look which distinguishes it from other local milkweeds. Young sprouts, flower heads and young fruits were eaten by the Omaho after boiling out the toxin and changing the water. Many other tribes used common milkweed as a food source (Kindscher 1987).

Etymology: The genus Asclepias was named by Carl Linnaeus after the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius.  The name, syriaca, comes from the Latin, "of Syria", due to the thought that A. syriaca originated from Syria.

Asclepias syriaca Indiana Dunes

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

asclepias syriaca follicle

Kindscher, K. 1987. Edible wild plants of the prairie: an ethnobotanical guide. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. pp. 54-59.

Species Present and Native