Marsh Milkweed


Sumner, United States

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Marsh (Swamp) Milkweed along the “boardwalk” at
Effigy Mounds National Park in northeast Iowa. USA

Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias incarnata
Milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae)

Description: This perennial wildflower is highly variable in size (2-6’ tall), depending on environmental conditions. The central stem branches occasionally, forming ascending lateral stems; these stems are light green, terete, and glabrous. The opposite leaves are up to 6" long and 1½" across, although they are more typically about 3" long and ½" across. They are narrowly lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate in shape, smooth (entire) along their margins, and glabrous. Upper leaf surfaces are medium to dark green, although they can become yellowish green or pale green in response to bright sunlight and hot dry conditions. The leaves are either sessile or their bases clasp the stems. Upper stems terminate in pink umbels of flowers spanning about 2-3½" across. Each flower is about ¼" across, consisting of 5 upright whitish hoods and 5 surrounding pink petals that droop downward in the manner of most milkweeds. The blooming period occurs during late summer and lasts about a month. The flowers exude a pleasant fragrance that resembles cinnamon. Afterwards, successfully cross-pollinated flowers are replaced by seedpods. The seedpods (follicles) are 3-4" long and narrowly lanceoloid-ellipsoid in shape. Immature seedpods are light green, smooth, and glabrous, turning brown at maturity. Each seedpod splits open along one side to release its seeds. These seeds have large tufts of white hair and they are distributed by the wind during the fall. The root system is rhizomatous, from which clonal colonies of plants occasionally develop.

Cultivation: The preference is full to partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and soil containing mucky clay, rich loam, or silt with rotting organic material. Occasional flooding is tolerated if it is temporary. Tolerance to hot dry conditions is poor. The leaves have a tendency to become more broad in shape in response to shady conditions.

Range & Habitat: Habitats include open to partially shaded areas in floodplain forests, swamps, thickets, moist black soil prairies, low areas along rivers and ponds, seeps and fens, marshes, and drainage ditches. Swamp Milkweed can be found in both high quality and degraded habitats.

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Artwork Comments

  • lorilee
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