Pictured above: Savannah milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata) at Hal Scott Preserve in east Orange County. Photo by Stacey Matrazzo. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF
With its diminutive stature and greenish-yellow flowers, Savannah milkweed is oft overlooked in its native pineland and prairie habitats. It blooms late spring through fall, peaking in summer. Its flowers are attractive to bees, wasps and butterflies. Like all members of the Asclepias genus, Savannah milkweed is a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies. The plant contains a milky latex that is toxic to most animals, but Monarch, Queen and Soldier caterpillars are adapted to feed on them despite the chemical defense.
Savannah milkweed’s urn-shaped flowers are five-petaled and deeply lobed. Atypical of most milkweed species, the lobes are not reflexed. Flowers are erect, pedicellate and born in loose axillary or terminal clusters. Leaves are linear, sessile and oppositely arranged. Lower leaves are reduced in size. Stems are slim and somewhat pubescent. Seeds are born in erect follicles that dry and split open as the fruit matures. Each seed is attached to a white silky pappus that catches the wind and aids in dispersal.
The genus Asclepias is named for Asclepius, the Greek god of healing because some Asclepias species, such as A. tuberosa, are known to have medicinal properties. The species epithet pedicellata refers to the pedicellate flowers.
Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Native range: Nearly throughout
To see where natural populations of Savannah milkweed have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8A–10B
Soil: Moist, well-drained sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to high pine shade
Growth habit: 6–12” tall
Savannah milkweed plants are not commercially available. Visit a natural area to see them.
For more information on other Asclepias species, see these resources:
- Milkweed (from 20 Easy-to-Grow Wildflowers)
- Carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea)
- Largeflower milkweed (Asclepias connivens)
- Pinewoods milkweed (Asclepias humistrata)
- Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
- Fewflower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata)
- Longleaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia)
- Butterly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
- Green antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis)