Common milkweed

Asclepias syriaca L. Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed family)

Life cycle

Stoutly erect, patch-forming perennial.

Young common milkweed 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-foottall 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 clusters Common milkweed fruit Mature fruit and seed of common milkweed
Common milkweed flower clusters (left). Common milkweed fruit (right). Mature fruit and seed of common milkweed (bottom).

Reproduction

Seeds, creeping roots and rhizomes.

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