Asclepias amplexicaulis (Clasping Milkweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Blunt-leaved Milkweed, Sand Milkweed
Family:Apocynaceae (Dogbane)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Threatened
Habitat:sun; dry prairies, open woods
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:2 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Usually a single rounded cluster of 15 to 80 flowers is at the top of the plant, at the end of a naked stem rising up to 12 inches above the top-most leaves. Individual flowers are about 5/8 inch long with 5 pink-tinged green petals pulled back away from the pink to tan-colored 5-parted crown. The tubular hoods in the crown are slightly shorter than the curving horns. Each flower is on a stalk about 1 inch long. Occasionally a second cluster is at the base of the terminal flower stem.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, to 2 inches wide, hairless with a waxy appearance, generally oval with distinctly wavy edges, a whitish to pink midrib, and little or no leaf stalk, typically clasping the stem. The leaf tip is blunt but usually with a tiny sharp point at the apex. 2 to 5 pairs are widely spaced on the smooth green to pinkish stem.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is an erect spindle-shaped pod about 4 inches long, containing many brown seeds, each with a tuft of white to tan hair to carry it off in the wind.


According to the DNR, Clasping Milkweed was designated a species of Special Concern in 1984 due to its natural rarity in the state, being found only in a few counties in southeastern Minnesota. In the DNR's overhaul of rare species in 2013, it was elevated to Threatened status due to the scarcity of its particular habitat needs—sparsely vegetated savanna where there is little competition from other perennials. A difficult pursuit for me personally over many years, I caught the last blooming specimen at a site in Winona County with help from staff at the DNR's Natural Heritage Program.

Clasping Milkweed is recognized by the single terminal flower cluster and the stalkless, clasping leaves with wavy edges. It somewhat resembles the more common Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), which sometimes has similar broad leaves with wavy edges, but its leaves are short-stalked and not clasping, and its flower clusters arise from the leaf axils.

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Winona County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Larry - Weaver Dunes
on: 2015-06-26 15:02:45

Saw maybe 5 scattered groupings of 2 - 6 plants on June 19 2015 in the Conservancy part of the dunes. Also saw fame flower.

Posted by: Ann - Todd County
on: 2015-06-29 11:12:34

I realize that this is unlikely, according to the location maps and status, but I have a milkweed plant on my land that has clasping leaves. It is a young plant, with leaves holding tighter to the stem than the common milkweed nearby. The stem has a reddish tinge to it. I have looked at all the other milkweeds and none seem to match. The leaves are not curly, but perhaps that is due to the young age of the plant. It is not flowering yet. Any ideas what else it could be? Should I be protecting it from my husband and the mower?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-07-05 10:20:29

Ann, it's really not possible to say what it is until it flowers. The shape of the cluster, number of flowers per cluster, and flower color are good indicators of species, though it is a pretty safe bet it is not clasping milkweed. If it is a milkweed, chances are it is just common milkweed with some growth anomaly. Or perhaps it is a dogbane.

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