Butterfly WeedBotanical name: Asclepias...

PLANT NOTEBOOK

November 02, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Butterfly Weed

Botanical name: Asclepias tuberosa

Pronunciation: As-KLEEP-e-as

Family: Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed)

Origin: Eastern North America

Class: Perennial

Display period: July to September

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Environment: Sun

With "weed" in its name, anyone might suppose the butterfly weed is a plant to steer clear of. And yet, there's nothing ungainly or invasive in its nature.

Asclepias comes by its disparagement honestly. Its close cousin is the common roadside milkweed, which, although not exactly a plant one would seek for a garden, redeems itself in the ornamental quality of its pods that fresh, dried or gilded contribute an unusual dimension to floral arrangements, especially at Christmastime.

Asclepias is called "the undisputed star of the genus." Its flat-topped discs of bright orange flowers stand proud in the best of company.

But asclepias offers more than beauty in a flower bed or a vase. It's highly drought tolerant (although requiring watering if such a condition persists) and actually prefers poor soil over rich loam.

The plant was named after Asclepias, the physician/hero of Greek myth, because the sap, which is actually poisonous, was thought to have healing properties. Its common name came about because of its extreme attraction for butterflies.

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