Asclepias variegata

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Asclepias variegata
Asclepias variegata Gil.jpg
photo by Gil Nelson
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Gentianales
Family: Asclepiadaceae
Genus: Asclepias
Species: A. variegata
Binomial name
Asclepias variegata
ASCL VARI dist.jpg
Natural range of Asclepias variegata from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common names: Redring milkweed; White milkweed

Taxonomic notes

Synonym: Biventraria variegata (Linnaeus) Small

Asclepias is named for Asklepio, the Greek god of medicine and healing.[1]


In general, with the Asclepias genus, they are perennial herbs usually milky sap. The stems are erect, spreading or decumbent and usually are simple and often solitary. The leaves are opposite to subopposite, are sometimes whorled, and rarely alternate. The corolla lobes are reflexed and are rarely erect or spreading. The filaments are elaborate into five hood forming a corona around the gynosteguim. The corona horns are present in most species.[2]

More specifically, for A. variegata, the stems are simple, solitary, weakly pubescent or glabrate, and are approximately 2-10 dm tall. The leaves are opposite, have 2-5 pairs, the lower leaves are usually quite reduced in size, suborbicular to ovate or widely elliptic-lanceolate, and are 5-14 cm long, 3-7 cm wide. The leaves are firm, glabrous or very weakly pubescent, especially above. There are 1-4 umbels,that are terminal or from upper nodes, are globose, and are 3-6cm broad. The pedicels are 1-2 cm long. The corolla is bright white in color. The lobes are reflexed, are 6-7 mm long. The corona is 4-7 mm in diameter. The horns are shorter than the hoods. The follicles are 10-14 cm long, 1.5-2 cm broad. Flowers May to June; July to September.[2]


It is found from Connecticut west to Ohio, south to eastern Texas, and east to Florida.[3]



Asclepias variegata is found in upland pine-oak forests and woodlands,[3] and in mesic hammocks.[4] Additionally, it occurs on bluffs and slopes, burned pinelands, and annually burned savannas. It prefers higher light levels, growing mainly in sunny to semi-shaded environments, and is usually found in drying loamy sand or moist sandy loam. It also appears in disturbed habitat such as park trails and the borders of clear-cuts.[5]

Associated species include pine, oak, hickory, magnolia, maple, sweet gum, juniper, Rubus brambles, Vaccinium, Chionanthus and others.[5]


This species flowers from May to July,[3] but it has also been observed flowering in April. Fruiting has been observed in June, October, and November.[5]

Seed dispersal

Seeds are wind dispersed.

Fire ecology

Asclepias variegata has been found in burned pine-oak-hickory stands and pinelands, as well as annually burned savannas.[5] A deep taproot allows it to regenerate post-fire.[6]


Pollination of Asclepias is unusual. Pollen is contained in sacs (pollinia) located in the slits of the flower (stigmatic slits), when a pollinator walks across the flower head, these sacs attach to the pollinator and disperses on to another plant when the pollinator lands and walks.[1] There is no specialist insect pollinator.[7] However, observations of pollination have occured in Jackson County, FL, with beetles,[8] a lovebug, and a wasp.[9] It also is a nector plant for butterflies but its leaves are not as attractive to monarchs and queens as a larval host compared to other similar species.[10]

Use by animals

Not an important host plant to monarch butterfly caterpillars due to its tendency to occur in low densities in shaded areas, making it harder to find.[6] Bobwhite quails eat the seeds.[11] Contains toxic cardiac glycosides and is avoided by mammalian herbivores.[12]

Conservation and management

Cultivation and restoration

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 [[1]]Florida Native Plant Society. Accessed: March 30, 2016
  2. 2.0 2.1 Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 848-852. Print.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Weakley, Alan S. Flora of the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States: Working Draft of 21 May 2015. University of North Carolina Herbarium (NCU). PDF. 933.
  4. Wunderlin, Richard P. and Bruce F. Hansen. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. Third edition. 2011. University Press of Florida: Gainesville/Tallahassee/Tampa/Boca Raton/Pensacola/Orlando/Miami/Jacksonville/Ft. Myers. 271. Print.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: June 2014. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Robert K. Godfrey, H. Kurz, K. Craddock Burks, James R. Burkhalter, L G Plank, Gary R. Knight, Andre F. Clewell, R. Kral, Richard S. Mitchell, Lisa Keppner, Ed Keppner, D.C. Hunt, R. Komarek, Wilson Baker, and R. F. Doren. States and Counties: Florida: Leon, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Jackson, Gadsden, Liberty, Jefferson, Wakulla, Walton, and Bay. Georgia: Grady and Thomas.
  6. 6.0 6.1 [[2]]
  7. [[3]]Xerces Society. Accessed: March 30, 2016
  8. Observation by Floyd Griffith in Jackson County, FL, May 22, 2016, posted to Florida Flora and Ecosystematics Facebook Group May 22, 2016
  9. Observation by Floyd Griffith in Jackson County, FL, May 1, 2016, posted to Florida Flora and Ecosystematics Facebook Group May 1, 2016.
  10. Observation by Roger Hammer in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla County, FL, March 23, 2017, posted to Florida Flora and Ecosystematics Facebook Group March 27, 2017.
  11. [[4]]Ozark Edge Wildflowers
  12. [[5]]Illinois Wild Flowers.