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(Asclepias syriaca)

Other Names:




Asclepiadaceae Milkweed family

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

Herbaceous perennial.  


Growing 3' - 5' tall


The leaves are opposite, simple broad ovate-lanceolate, 2"-10" long and 1" -5" wide, usually with an undulate margin and a red-colored main vein. They have a very short petiole and a velvety underside.


The thick stem is un-branched, and all parts of the plant produce a white latex liquid when broken. Under magnification, the stem of milkweed is hairy. This will help you differentiate milkweed from it's poisonous look-alike Dogbane Apocynum L. When mature, the stem of Dogbane often branches, while that of Milkweed does not.





Spring to early summer


The flower heads look somewhat like loose heads of broccoli. The flowers are grouped in several spherical umbels with numerous flowers in each umbel. The individual flowers are small, " - " diameter, perfumed, with five cornate hoods.


The seeds are attached to long, white flossy hairs and encased in large seed pods.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

When young, Dogbane, Apocynum L., can be mistaken for Milkweed. However as Dogbane matures, the stems typically branch while Milkweed does not. The stems of Dogbane are also free of hairs.


Milkweed grows in disturbed waste areas, along roadsides, in overgrown fields

Parts Used:

Young leaves, shoots, flower buds, and immature fruit.


Wild Food Uses:

Use young shoots in mid-spring, and the tender tops of older plants later on. The unopened flower bud is also very tasty. the unopened flower buds can be parboiled for a minute, then dipped in batter and fried like a fritter. Or they can be included in soups, casseroles, or as a cooked vegetable. Note: This plant must not be eaten raw, but must be cooked. To get rid of the mildly poisonous say, boil in two changes of water.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

None Known

Medicinal Actions:


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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield