WNC Native Milkweed Species

Milkweed species native to Western North Carolina

(From “Flora of the Southern & Mid-Atlantic States,” by Alan Weakley.)

Most common:
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Eastern Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Common Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Fourleaf Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia)
Tall (Poke) Milkweed. (Asclepias exaltata)

Milkweed that you would have to go out of your way to find in WNC:
Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis)
White Milkweed (Asclepias variegata)
Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)

Rarest:
Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

NOTE: DO NOT PLANT TROPICAL MILKWEED!!!! Whatever you do, please do not plant a non-native milkweed. Many people order tropical milkweed aka Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica). Karen Oberhauser, the top banana in monarch research, has this to say about it:

“Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is not native to the United States or Canada. Because it is attractive and easy to grow, it is often the most widely available milkweed at commercial nurseries. Because tropical milkweed historically occurs in the New World tropics, it is adapted to grow year-round, whereas most native North American milkweed species die back each winter. When tropical milkweed is planted in the coastal southern U.S. and California, these plants continue to flower and produce new leaves throughout the fall and winter, except during rare freeze events. Potential negative effects on monarchs include 1) continuous breeding on the same plants, which can lead to a build-up of Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) infection, and 2) availability of milkweed during a time that it is not naturally available, and so potential consequent impacts on monarch breeding during the fall migration.”

I feel very strongly that if a plant didn’t evolve in an area, it shouldn’t be encouraged to grow if it has the potential to disrupt the natural ecosystem. In WNC, we do have freeze events that should keep this plant in check. However, with global climate change disrupting weather patterns, I don’t think the risks of using this non-native outweigh the rewards.