Common milkweed

Asclepias syriaca L.

Life cycle

Stoutly erect, patch-forming perennial. 

common milkweed young plant
Young common milkweed plant.

Leaves

Opposite, oval, oblong to egg-shaped leaves are 3 to 8 inches long with smooth margins and distinctly white midveins and veins. The upper leaf surface is dark green and usually smooth; the lower leaf surface is pale green and finely hairy. Leaves exude a milky sap when damaged.

common milkweed leaf
Common milkweed leaf.

Stems

Stout and erect, rarely branched, up to 6-foot tall herbaceous stems are finely hairy and hollow and exude a milky sap when damaged. 

Flowers and fruit

Purple, pink to white flowers are found in dense, ball-like clusters consisting of 20 to 130 individual flowers. Fruit are large, 3- to 5-inch-long, grayish green, teardrop-shaped pods covered with soft, warty bumps. Pods split open at maturity to release thin, brown, oval seeds each with a tuft of long, silky hairs that aid in wind dissemination. 

common milkweed flower common milkweed fruit
Common milkweed flower (left) and fruit (right).

Reproduction

Seeds, creeping roots and rhizomes.

common milkweed mature fruit
Mature fruit and seeds of common milkweed.

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The MSU IPM Program maintains this site as an access point to pest management information at MSU. The IPM Program is administered within the Department of Entomology, fueled by research from the AgBioResearch, delivered to citizens through MSU Extension, and proud to be a part of Project GREEEN.