Common milkweed

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated December 2017.

Scientific name: Asclepias syriaca L.

Common name(s): common milkweed

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile , NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)



-generally flowers June to August in ME

-quickly spreads through rhizomes and seed dispersal

-can grow to five feet tall

-large thick leaves

-broken leaves spew a milky liquid

-pink flower clusters at the top of the plant

-may be confused with A. purpurascens; see left sidebar on Go Botany webpage


-found in fields and pastures

-along roads

-prefers full sun

  • can tolerate part shade


-over 450 insects that feed off this plant

-attracts bees and butterflies

-contains toxins to defend itself which the monarch butterfly takes advantage of

-difficult to remove

Natural History:

-named after the Greek God of Medicine, Asklepios

-historical use of being used for wart removal and lung diseases



Heinrich, B. 1976. Flowering phenologies: Bog, woodland, and disturbed habitats. Ecology. 57(5):890-899.

Taylor, David. “U.S. Forest Service.” Wildflowers,