Asclepias incarnata and Asclepias tuberosa (Swamp and Butterfly milkweed) 2017

Two other summer blooms (July to August) in Gallup and Furstenburg Parks are the colorful milkweeds, Swamp and Butterfly milkweeds.  The flowers appear overnight it seems in the wet marshlands and meadows of the Furstenburg Park close to the Michigan lilies.  Follow the pathway from the main parking lot in Gallup and go west to the second wet land and before you get to the Fuller Bridge over the Huron.  You have to look carefully as they are in the middle of the second wetland and not very accessible.  The almost iridescent colors help in locating them 5 or 6 yards deep on the north side of the pathway.  Both flowers attract numerous butterflies including the monarch and swallowtails plus bees and are easily grown in home gardens.

A.  tuberosa has 5 sepals and 5 petals and an off white pistil and the leaves are alternate and linear-oblong and entire (without serration or lobes).  The inflorescences last longer than A. incarnata and I usually find these gems  on the right hand side of the pathway almost to the second wetland.  Sometimes they bloom twice in a summer.  Because it does not have the milky liquid inside the main stem many refer to it as Butterfly weed rather than milkweed.  WebMD lists A. tuberosa as a homeopathic remedy with some negative side effects for an inflammation of the lungs called  pleurisy.  Hence the nickname Pleurisy root.  According to, Western Indians use the root for a crude form of sugar.  I think I will stay away from that usage and stick with German rock sugar in my tea.  You should also!

A.  incarnata is found only in the second wetland and right before the Fuller Park Bridge north of the pathway.  The brilliant reddish-pink inflorescence, bloom, is spectacular and worth the walk to get to it.  There is a variety that is all white but I have never seen it in the parks.  Long narrow (up to 6 inches) lance shaped leaves distinguish A. incarnata from other varieties.  According to Plants For A,  A. incarnata is a strong laxative and diuretic that can eliminate tapeworms in an hour!  Please don’t try this for a variety of reasons but mainly because the USDA says this plant may be toxic if not prepared properly internally.  An added benefit of growing these beauties at home is that they are very deer resistant.  Hurray for that in Michigan.

A. tuberosa photo by Stewart Nelson, 2017. ©

A. incarnata

A. incarnata photo by Stewart Nelson, 2017. ©


    1. Common Milkweed is not as beautiful as these varieties but they play an important part of the life cycle of Monarch butterflies. I love to see so many around the park.

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