Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

The flowers of Purple Milkweed are quite attractive. This species is less aggressive than Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed), which it resembles somewhat in appearance. However, the flowers of Purple Milkweed are usually a deeper color of purple and more likely to occur in terminal umbels at the apex of the central stem, rather than as axillary umbels between the upper leaves. The seedpods of Purple Milkweed are smooth, while the seedpods of Common Milkweed have soft prickles. Purple Milkweed also resembles Asclepias rubra (Red Milkweed), but the horns on the flowers of the latter species are straight and about as tall as the hoods, while the horns of Purple Milkweed are shorter than the hoods and curve inward toward the reproductive column of the flowers. Return
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This perennial plant is about 1¾-2¾' tall and unbranched. The central stem is light green, round in cross-section (terete), and glabrous to finely pubescent. The opposite leaves are up to 6" long and 3" across. They are ovate-oblong or broadly lanceolate, with smooth margins that may undulate up and down. The leaves often curl upward from the pinkish central vein. The upper surface of the foliage is mostly glabrous and yellowish green to dark green (depending on light conditions), while the lower surface is light green and softly pubescent (at least along the major veins). Leaf venation is pinnate. The central stem terminates with 1-6 umbels of flowers; there may be a few axillary umbels from some of the upper leaves as well. Each rounded umbel is about 2-3" across. These flowers have the typical structure for milkweeds; they are pale purple to deep purple, sometimes with greenish or rosy tints. However, the central reproductive column and the bases of the deflexed petals are more pale than the rest of the flower. The hoods are much taller than the horns; the latter curve inward toward the reproductive column and appear spike-like (but are slightly thicker toward the base). The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, and lasts about one month. The flowers have a pleasant fragrance. If cross-pollination occurs, the flowers are replaced by seedpods (follicles) that are held erect. These seedpods are up to 6" long and 1" across; they are narrowly lanceoloid in shape. They have a smooth surface and are finely short-pubescent or canescent. The seeds have large tufts of white hair; they are distributed by the wind. The root system consists of a fleshy taproot and rhizomes; small colonies of plants are sometimes produced from the rhizomes. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Purple Milkweed is an occasional plant that is widely distributed in Illinois (see Distribution Map). However, it is uncommon or absent in some areas of NW, central, and east-central Illinois. Habitats include lower slopes of hill prairies, meadows in wooded areas, thickets and woodland borders, bluffs and open woodlands, oak savannas, glades, and roadsides. This plant usually occurs along prairie edges near wooded areas, rather than in open prairie. It is usually found in higher quality habitats. Faunal Associations
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Purple Milkweed is an occasional plant that is widely distributed in Illinois (see Distribution Map). However, it is uncommon or absent in some areas of NW, central, and east-central Illinois. Habitats include lower slopes of hill prairies, meadows in wooded areas, thickets and woodland borders, bluffs and open woodlands, oak savannas, glades, and roadsides. This plant usually occurs along prairie edges near wooded areas, rather than in open prairie. It is usually found in higher quality habitats. Faunal Associations
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects and Birds of Purple Milkweed in Illinois

Asclepias purpurascens (Purple Milkweed)
(Insects & hummingbirds suck nectar; most observations are from Robertson, otherwise they are from Betz)

With pollinia:

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora abrupta fq; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Synhalonia rosae; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile mendica, Megachile addenda

Flies
Conopidae: Physocephala tibialis; Tachinidae: Spallanzania hesperidarum

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Euphydryas phaeton, Speyeria cybele fq, Speyeria idalia, Vanessa atalanta, Vanessa virginiensis

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Thorybes pylades

Plant Bugs
Lygaeidae: Oncopeltus fasciatus

Without pollinia:

Birds
Trochilidae: Archilochus colubris

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis, Bombus pensylvanica, Bombus vagans; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora ursina

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Augochlorella aurata, Augochlorella striata, Augochloropsis metallica metallica, Lasioglossum pectoralis, Lasioglossum versatus

Wasps
Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Prionyx atrata

Flies
Tachinidae: Copecrypta ruficauda

Butterflies
Lycaenidae: Everes comyntas, Lycaena hyllus, Satyrium acadicum, Satyrium calanus; Pieridae: Colias philodice; Papilionidae: Battus philenor, Papilio cresphontes, Papilio glaucus, Papilio troilus

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Poanes hobomok, Polites origenes, Polites peckius, Polites themistocles, Pompeius verna

Beetles
Cerambycidae: Tetraopes tetrophthalmus

Plant Bugs
Lygaeidae: Oncopeltus fasciatus

Pollinia Presence Unspecified:

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera (Btz); Apidae (Bombinae): Bombus pensylvanica (Btz)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Occurs in eastern North America from Ontario and New Hampshire south to Georgia and west as far as South Dakota and Texas. However, distribution is spotty in parts of the range, especially along the northeastern seaboard (possibly extirpated in Rhode Island and New Hampshire), in the southeast (Virginia to Mississippi), and in the northern midwest. Apparently scattered or occasional throughout much of its broad range, but also apparently fairly widespread and abundant in some states, including Texas and Missouri. Its habitat requirements are not particularly restrictive: the species apparently occurs in prairies, woodland openings/edges, and thickets, and in wet situations as well as on dry, rocky ridgetops. Also, at least in Texas, along roadsides and rights-of-way. Protection and restoration of prairie remnants and oak savannas may benefit the species in areas such as the upper midwest.

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Wikipedia

Asclepias purpurascens

Purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) is a herbaceous plant species. It is in the genus Asclepias, making it a type of milkweed. It is native to the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern United States similar to the range of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). The plant gets its name from the flowers that first develop a pink color but then turn darker purple as they mature.

Uses[edit]

Like other members of the milkweeds, several insects live off the plant, including the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), the Milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetraophtalmus), Large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) and Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis). Other insects and pollinators feed off the flower's nectar.

This species is sometimes cultivated in gardens designed to attract butterflies, but is less common than the light purple Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) or the orange Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). The nectar of the plant attracts many other species of butterflies and insects as well.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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