Butterfly Weed

Common Name: Butterfly Weed.

Scientific Name: Asclepias Tuberosa.

What to look for?  Bright orange cluster of flowers! The Butterfly Weed is perhaps the showiest of the milkweeds because of the long-lasting and colorful orange cluster of flowers. Each flower consists of sepals, petals and horns surrounding a central column. 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 hoods with horns, and a central reproductive column that is white to light green and short. The five (5) leaf-like sepals are light green and oval in shape, although largely hidden when the flowers open. There are five (5) oval, orange petals that are declined (bent downward). The five (5) hoods are also orange, erect, and curved-ovate, forming open oblique tubes.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? While not found here, these beautiful wildflowers may be found in the restored prairie at Stonegate Park.

How big are they? Butterfly Weed may grow up to two feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately 2 inches long and ½ inch across. Each spherical flower cluster is about four to five inches in diameter.

Where do they grow and thrive? The Butterfly Weed is native to much of the U.S. east of the Rockies and into southern Canada. It is found here primarily in eastern Illinois. The primary habitats include prairies, savannas, open rocky woodlands, glades (in southern Illinois), abandoned sandy fields, roadside embankments, and areas along railroads.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Butterfly Weed usually occurs from May through September.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flower nectar attracts bees, wasps, and butterflies. Among the butterflies attracted to the Butterfly Weed are Swallowtails and Monarchs. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is also attracted to the flowers.

Interesting Facts About the Butterfly Weed:

  • Genus name honors the Greek god Asklepios the god of medicine.

  • The species name tuberose refers to the tuberous roots.

  • Unlike most milkweed, Butterfly Weed does not contain thick milky sap, but instead has a watery translucent sap.

  • The fruit is a pod containing numerous brown seed each with a tuft of silky white hairs, which float gracefully on a gentle breeze when the pod opens.

  • Also commonly called pleurisy root in reference to a prior medicinal use of the plant roots to treat lung inflammations.

For more information on the Butterfly Weed and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, University of Texas Wildflower Center, Missouri Botanical Garden, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!