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

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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!

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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.

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