This clump-forming, long-lived, herbaceous perennial is native to eastern North America where it tends to grow on dry soil in full sun . It is a member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) that also includes bluestar (Amsonia), periwinkle (Vinca), and oleander (Nerium). The medium green leaves are lanceolate, two to five inches long, pointed, and spirally arranged on hairy stems. The bright orange to yellow flowers appear in umbels in late spring into summer. Each flower has five nectar cups with incurved horns. When a pollinator lands on the flower, its foots slips between the cups and catches bags of pollen on its legs. When the pollinator visits the next flower the foot slips again and the pollen bag is caught by another set of incurved horns. The flowers are followed by attractive spindle shaped seed pods three to six inches long that are filled with seeds bearing long silky hairs that facilitate dissemination by the wind. An excellent choice for a wildflower garden, border or cutting garden. The plant is important to bumblebees, lady beetles, and butterflies especially the monarch. The leaves provide food for monarch caterpillars in late spring, and the flowers provide nectar for the monarch adults from mid summer to early autumn. As a result of eating the leaves as caterpillars, monarchs take on a chemical that gives them a bad taste in each stage of their life cycle and their enemies learn to avoid them. Other butterflies that feed on butterfly weed include regal fritillary, great spangled fritillary, viceroy, grey hairstreak, and common sulfur. Hummingbirds also enjoy the nectar of the flowers.
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Size: 2-3’ H x 2” W
Light: Full sun
Soil: Average, medium moist to dry, well-drained
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Beneficial Insects Attracted: Bumblebees, lady beetles, and butterflies especially the monarch