Asclepias exaltata (Poke Milkweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Tall Milkweed
Family:Apocynaceae (Dogbane)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:3 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: UPL NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers]  Flowers are in open droopy clusters at the end of naked stalks that arise from leaf axils in the upper part of the plant. Flowers are about 3/8 inch across and ½ inch long, have a 5-parted crown, with a horn sticking out of each of the 5 cylindrical hoods, a short column tucked in the center, and 5 flaring petals that bend back away from the flower. Crown color is creamy white to greenish or purplish, with light green petals. One plant usually has a few to several clusters.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are large and broad, to 6 inches long and 3 inches wide, roughly oval to egg-shaped, tapering to a point at both ends on a stalk ¼ to 1 inch long. Leaf edges may be slightly wavy, but are otherwise smooth. Attachment is opposite. The main stem is smooth and light green to purplish.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a spindle-shaped pod 4 to 6 inches long, covered in downy hairs. Inside are flat brown seeds with a tuft of long white hair to carry them off in the wind.


All Asclepias were formerly in family Asclepiadaceae but have been reassigned to Apocynaceae (Dogbane). Poke Milkweed is the most shade-tolerant of the Asclepias in Minnesota. Monarchs love it, as do rabbits. When I grew it at my former home in Lino Lakes, it was so loaded with Monarch larva I had to move some to other plants for fear they would completely decimate it!

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens
  • Out Back Nursery

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at William O'Brien State Park, Washington County, and in a private garden in Anoka County.


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

Posted by: Pam - Apple Valley, Mn
on: 2012-06-01 08:15:23

I found a stand of these growing in an undisturbed woodland in deep shade in my backyard.

Posted by: Linda - Lebanon Hills Park, Eagan
on: 2015-05-29 01:20:04

I've seen a small group of them where the Discovery and Lakeshore trails meet (SW a few feet). Lots of cuttings/brush there so will check for them this summer.

Posted by: Jo - McGregor/Duluth
on: 2015-07-17 15:19:21

We have a large patch of them at the end of our woods in McGregor. Last Fall we harvested seeds and propagated them... Now planting them in edge of woods in Duluth as well as roadside. Plants are still small, but Monarchs seem to prefer the Swamp Milkweed we also planted.

Posted by: cheryl b - hyland park, bloomington mn
on: 2018-05-08 01:52:08

These are in the shady woods near the nature center. Beautiful! I was surprised to learn this was a milkweed since it is so shade tolerant.

Posted by: Terri Dugan - Cherry Grove, MN
on: 2018-06-16 19:57:16

Discovered during BioBlitz in Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Posted by: Robert Freeman - Todd County
on: 2018-09-30 21:00:44

Found 30 plus plants growing in a Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Blue Beech (Carpinus caroliniana), White Oak (Quercus alba) uncommon in this area, Mountain Maple (Acer spicatum), forest, companion plants round lobed hepatica (Anemone americana), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), Sweet Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus var. palmatus), Cinnamon fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), maiden hair fern (Adiantum pedatum), Canadian Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).

Posted by: Kathy Rice - Eagan MN
on: 2019-07-14 09:32:05

Shady edge of the south side of the sidewalk near the south west corner of Cliff and JohnnyCake, surrounded by buckthorn

Posted by: Maria DeLaundreau - Battle Creek Regional Park, Ramsey County
on: 2020-06-23 16:09:25

Saw this for the first time this year on June 20 in the oak woodland section of Battle Creek right along the trail. What a beautiful surprise.

Posted by: Owen - Afton State Park
on: 2020-06-27 12:58:35

Saw many non flowering plants and two plants that were in bloom on a shady bluff by the Saint Croix River in Afton State Park.

Posted by: Jon Pieper - Houston County
on: 2020-11-03 09:49:14

Found twenty five plants in southeastern Houston County. Harvested and replanted thirteen pods.

Posted by: Al - Chippewa County Wisconsin
on: 2021-07-02 10:05:55

We found it around our lawn/woods edge. Very heavily populated with larvae before common milkweed was very tall. Larvae preferred blossoms. So many we had to re-locate because the plants were getting stripped. So many we will not get seed pods from many plants. Nine on one stem! Most had multiple larvae. Not so for Common. I would estimate 10:1 on Poke compared with Common. We will concentrate on spreading Poke all over our 118 acres along trails and edges. It does well on woodland logging trails, and we found larvae there too. Sorry, but Our County is just like MN counties, like Crow Wing. I see similar results from MN. Worth spreading this information.

Posted by: Jerry Pruett - rochester
on: 2022-06-22 18:00:49

Found a thin patch of this in deep woods in Chester Woods Park.

Posted by: Bonnie L. Harper-Lore - Minnetonka backyard, Hennepin County
on: 2022-07-02 13:14:15

Surprised to find an unfamiliar milkweed in my own backyard about 5 years ago. They are beginning to bloom. About 6 plants return each year along a decomposing log near a Basswood tree. Have only observed ants foraging for the flower's nectar. Unfortunately, no monarch larva seen on these.

Posted by: Sara Brice - Hay Creek Forest Management area near Red Wing
on: 2023-06-11 13:34:18

On path to overlook.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.