swamp milkweed, what milkweed is native to florida, when to cut back milkweed in florida

Florida Native Milkweed

You may have heard some news in the gardening community about tropical milkweed and a monarch butterfly parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (or OE). If you haven’t, here’s the skinny:

Scientists around the world are asking gardeners in Florida to replace their non-native tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) with Florida native milkweed, instead. This is to slow the spread of OE infection.

OE is a spore-like parasite that lives on tropical milkweed. Over time, OE builds up on the leaves of the tropical milkweed, reaching especially high levels when the plant doesn’t die back in winter (like it doesn’t in most of the state). Florida native milkweed, on the other hand, does have a natural bloom and death cycle and this helps keep OE levels down. When a monarch eats milkweed infected with OE, it too becomes infected and can spread this infection to other healthy monarchs.

tropical milkweed and monarchs

An OE infected monarch may not have enough strength to emerge from its cocoon or it could turn out deformed. If an infected monarch does successfully finish its metamorphosis, it may die on its annual migration to Mexico.

Another problem with tropical milkweed grown in Florida is that it provides a year-round food source for monarchs. Although this doesn’t sound like a problem, perpetually blooming milkweed can cause a monarch to stay put in winter instead of migrating as nature intended.

Some people still grow tropical milkweed in Florida but cut it back from October through February. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle, you can safely feed your local monarchs by planting native milkweed instead.

Is Milkweed Native to Florida?

Out of the 140 species of milkweed in the world, roughly 20 are native to Florida. Most of these native milkweeds aren’t available commercially but there are 3 more popular species of Florida native milkweed you can sometimes find in specialty nurseries: butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), and 2 types of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Ascelpias perennis).

Florida Native Milkweed List

Use this Florida native milkweed list to identify plants in the wild:

Clasping Milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis)

clasping milkweed, florida native milkweed
Photo Credit: Rachel Veal

Carolina Milkweed (Asclepias cinerea)

carolina milkweed
Photo Credit: Adam Arendell

Largeflower Milkweed (Asclepias connivens)

largeflower milkweed
Photo Credit: Eleanor

Curtiss’ Milkweed (Asclepias curtissii)

curtiss' milkweed
Photo Credit: Bob Peterson

Florida Milkweed (Asclepias feayi)

Florida Milkweed
Photo Credit: jimduggan24

Pinewoods Milkweed (Ascelpias humistrata)

pinewoods milkweed
Photo Credit: Eleanor

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

swamp milkweed
Photo Credit: Peganum

Fewflower Milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata)

fewflower milkweed
Photo Credit: Philip Bouchard

Michaux’s Milkweed (Asclepias michauxii)

michaux’s milkweed
Photo Credit: Eleanor

Pineland Milkweed (Asclepias obovata)

pineland milkweed
Photo Credit: Eleanor

Savannah Milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata)

savannah milkweed
Photo Credit: jimduggan24

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias perennis)

swamp milkweed
Photo Credit: Patrick Alexander

Red Milkweed (Asclepias rubra)

red milkweed
Photo Credit: Sonnia Hill

Velvetleaf Milkweed (Asclepias tomentosa)

velvetleaf milkweed
Photo Credit: Eleanor

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

butterfly milkweed
Photo Credit: Brett Whaley

Redring Milkweed (Asclepias variegata)

redring milkweed
Photo Credit: Philip Bouchard

Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)

whorled milkweed
Photo Credit: Dan Mullen

Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora)

green milkweed
Photo Credit: Doug McGrady

Green Antelopehorn Milkweed (Asclepias viridis)

green antelopehorn milkweed
Photo Credit: Sonnia Hill

Southern Milkweed (Asclepias viridula)

southern milkweed
Photo Credit: Eleanor

Where to Buy Florida Native Milkweed?

The easiest way to find Florida native milkweed for sale is to contact a nursery that is a member of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, or FANN. FANN is a group of retailers, environmental consultants, landscapers, and other experts that are dedicated to the cause of restoring Florida’s habitat.

It’s possible to find the more common butterfly milkweed for sale online, but when you can, source your native plants locally. This way, you can rest assured that your plant really is a native and isn’t a counterfeit (which sometimes happens!).

Use the FANN database to search for the Florida native nursery that’s closest to you.

What Other Plants and Trees are Native to Florida?

I’m passionate about growing Florida natives and think it’s important that we all do our part in keeping our beautiful state healthy. For more information on Florida native plants, check out:


Featured Image Photo Credit: David Seidensticker

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