Butterfly Weed Flowers in Brilliant Orange

Orange flowers are not as common in nature as white, yellow, red or purple ones. When you come across some brilliant orange blossoms, you definitely take notice. Brilliant flowers of the Butterfly Weed are easily seen in summertime fields of weeds. Even if the grass gets as tall as this native plant the flowers can be seen from a distance because of their bright orange color.

Butterfly Weed in the lawn is protected from the mower with a wire cage.
Butterfly Weed in the lawn is protected from the mower with a wire cage. Photo taken 13 July 2011.

The Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is related to the common milkweed. You can see similarities in the leaves and flowers of these two members of the Milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae.

Oblong leaves alternate up the stiff mainstem of the foot and a half tall plant. Most milkweeds have opposite leaves or leaves in whorls. Stems are hairy. When broken the stems release a clear juice, not milky like other milkweeds.

Oval hairy leaves of butterfly-weed alternate up its hairy stem.
Oval hairy leaves of butterfly-weed alternate up its hairy stem. Photo taken 13 July 2011.

The flower structure is unique to milkweeds. Milkweed flowers occur in loose umbels at the top of the plant. Five downward-pointing petals flare out below a five-pointed crown. The crown has five tips that connect to the united internal flower parts made up of stamens and stigma.

A closer look at the orange flowers of Butterfly Weed.
A closer look at the orange flowers of Butterfly Weed. Photo taken 13 July 2011

Seeds are held in elongated pods about 4-5 inches in length. Individual seeds are connected to feathery fluff that helps the seeds spread with the wind.

If you’re lucky enough to find this beautiful perennial plant, take home a few seed pods instead of digging up the whole plant. It has a long tap root, so it would be difficult to get the whole root for transplanting it successfully.

Butterfly-weed is a nice addition to any sunny flower garden, and as its name suggests it will draw butterflies to the area.

An alternate name for butterfly-weed is Pleurisy Root because Native Americans chewed the root for lung inflammations and bronchitis. Although the root has laxative, diuretic and expectorant qualities, it may be toxic in large doses, so it is not recommended to consume this pretty weed.

4 thoughts on “Butterfly Weed Flowers in Brilliant Orange

  1. it sure is very difficult digging up some of these butterfly weed flowers but i managed to dig up 2 of them in June and it was hot out then the flower and the plant died that i dug up both of them did but i noticed they were growing back in august so they didn’t die because the root stayed alive and the roots are big and fat i just couldn’t wait to have one of these flowers of my own and i couldn’t wait for the seeds to grow on so i dug some up plus i didn’t want to wait for 3 years for one to grow from seed

    but even know i knew the plant looked dead i knew the root was still alive so i kept watering the spot were i planted it in the yard and it came back

    i can’t dig any common milkweed up its way to hard i tried but now that its almost fall time should i cut the plant or leave it be and see what it does next year i found some butterfly weed flower seedpods in someones yard and i took some of the dry seeds and im growing 1 now and 4 common milkweed flowers from seeds they took 2 weeks to come up but their growing good

    im not gonna dig anymore butterfly weed up no more cause that was hard to do all i have to say is if someone else does find a wild butterfly weed flower and they want it be sure to bring a big shovel because you’ll need it and make sure not to brake the root or it may not live and plant it as deep as you dug it up and give it water every day or 2 even if the plant is dead cause it will come back but if you think you can’t dig it up leave it be

  2. people can dig these up its just hard to if you don’t have the right tools like me
    so if you can get one for free go for it but dont brake the taproot

  3. Hi Michael,

    It sounds like you’ve been busy and having fun with the native weeds. Digging the taproots must have been a chore, but you didn’t give up on them, did you? If you didn’t keep watering them I wonder if your plants would have died. Next year you should have some beautiful flowers to enjoy for all your efforts.

    Good luck with the milkweed plants. Are you going to plant them outside this fall or wait until spring?

  4. I agree, Michael. The right tools are a must. If you have a big shovel that would work, but a digging bar would give the leverage needed to loosen the soil, pullup the taproots and make the job a lot easier.

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