Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Asclepiadaceae or Milkweed Family
(many botanists now lump this family in the Apocynaceae or Dogbane Family)


Herb to about 5 feet tall with opposite, broad oval leaves.  Bleeds white sap from any broken or bruised part.  Flowers are in large, almost ball-shaped clusters, somewhat nodding. They have 5 downward-sweeping white to pink or purplish petals, and a crown formed of 5 fused stamens, each with a hood.  The crown is a paler color.  Blooms in midsummer.  Fruit is a pimply pod that splits open in the fall to release seeds with little tufts of down that are carried away by the wind.

Despite the scientific name (Syrian!), this is a native. Likes open, fields and roadsides.  Occasional in open areas of the Park.

Purple flowers

White flowers

The bizarre flower shape is distinctive of the genus Asclepias, the milkweeds.  The large size of the plant, and the large, drooping flower cluster easily identify this plant. Other milkweeds in Wildwood are either much shorter or have brilliant orange or pink flowers. White milkweed is of similar height, but has whiter flowers in less dense clusters; it has not yet been reported from the Park.

Milkweeds are unusual in that they produce pollen in a little sacs called pollinia which snag on insects and get carried to new flowers. The insects are not always happy to have the pollinia stuck to their legs or antennae and often try to remove them. See the bee with pollinia on her feet at right.

Pollinia on a bee's foot
Leaves Fruits

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