Asclepias purpurascens (Purple Milkweed)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; fields, thickets, open woods, along shores|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||2 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are about 1/3 inch across and about ½ inch long, with 5 petals angled down and out with tips pointing up, deep purple throughout though can exhibit lighter shades to pink. The 5 hoods are light pink to rose to purple, more than twice as tall as the flower center column. Horns also pink to rose, short, flat and curved in over flower center. Up to 6 round flower clusters 2½ to 3 inches wide are at the top of the plant and terminal leaf axils.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are opposite with fine hairs on lower surfaces, edges are toothless but may be wavy - up and down - and will curl upwards from the mid-vein. Leaves are elongated but broad, rounded at base and narrowed to a pointed tip, up to 3 inches wide and 8 inches long, with short leaf stems. The main stem is erect, unbranched, smooth or with very fine short hairs.
Only one record of this milkweed species is listed at the Bell Herbarium from down in Wabasha county and it is 125 years old. Very likely extirpated from its Minnesota range, it is listed as endangered in Wisconsin and as Special Concern or Endangered in other states within its native range. This species can thrive in home landscape gardens in Minnesota but needs watering in drier soils and in droughty weather. Somewhat similar in appearance to common milkweed, (A. syriaca), purple milkweed is a smaller plant, its flowers are generally more consistent in purple coloration, its flower clusters are more terminal on the stem, and it is less hairy overall. This is a species that will bring the gift of insects and birds to your garden. All Asclepias were formerly in family Asclepiadaceae but have been reassigned to Apocynaceae (Dogbane).
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken in an urban garden in Lino Lakes and were grown from seed purchased from Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona County
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?