Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Apocynaceae (Dogbane)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; wet prairies, along shores
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:2 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
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] Spidery balls of soft purple to almost hot pink flowers each ¾ to 1½ inches long, this milkweed has come by its name honestly. 2 to 4 flower clusters emerge from upper leaf axils and can be 3 inches across. The 5 long, light pink hoods are nearly three times the length of the central flower column and angled out and up, extending beyond the radius of the 5 petals below them. The horns are long and slender, curved in lightly over the top of the flower column but do not reach the center or touch one another.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are generally oval, up to 4 inches wide by 8 inches long, broad at the base to finely pointed at the tips, with a reddish mid-vein and little or no leaf stem. Leaf undersides are also hairy with upper surface velvety to smooth on the upper. Leaf edges are toothless, but may be somewhat wavy. This is a colonial species from roots with sturdy stems covered in fine hairs.


While the native range is throughout the entire western half of North America it is a decidedly western species in Minnesota most common in remnant wet prairies of the Red River Valley. Showing up in the nursery trade, it requires richer loamy soils and adequate moisture. All Asclepias were formerly in family Asclepiadaceae but have been reassigned to Apocynaceae (Dogbane).

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk, taken on a wet prairie in Polk County


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

Posted by: Terry - Ashby, MN near Pelican Lake
on: 2013-08-01 00:02:49

I found this plant on a State Land Preserve on the east side of Pelican Lake near Ashby. Beautiful! Your site helped me identify it, thank you.

Posted by: Brian - St. Peter
on: 2015-07-11 10:43:32

I saw two plants of this species in bloom at Schaefer Prairie (The Nature Conservancy) in McLeod County on July 10.

Posted by: James - Felton Prairie
on: 2017-07-17 09:04:50

Showy milkweed is the most common type of milkweed in the Assiniboia Skipper Unit section of Felton Prairie and is extremely abundant.

Posted by: Agassiz Audubon Society
on: 2018-07-05 21:11:28

07-05-2018 Blooming on the beach ridge of Glacial Lake Agassiz - 190th St NW and 280th Ave NW (8 miles SE of Warren MN in Polk Co.)

Posted by: Davis - Murray County
on: 2021-09-30 11:58:48

Present at County Line WMA

Posted by: Jon - Lake County
on: 2023-07-30 22:27:56

Same place I find everything, along County Road 101 between Larsmont and Two Harbors. There is on small cluster of these plants. I'm starting to think someone spread some prairie wildflower seeds along this stretch of road, as I am finding a few things in close proximity that are out of place in this location, like coneflowers and indigo.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-07-31 08:00:20

Jon, Lake County is definitely out of showy milkweed's natural range so a planting seems likely.

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