Jim Hawkins' Butterfly Milkweed Photo Page

Family: Asclepiadaceae

Holmdel Park, NJ

Just before I got married in 1991, my fiancé and I decided to take a trip to meet her parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, her home of origin. The drive from the New Jersey coast would lead us to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-70, then to Wheeling, WV to Ohio. I had lived in NJ for most of my life and had never seen Butterfly Milkweed. As we passed into the WV and Eastern Ohio region, I was fascinated with the multitude of iridescent orange wild flower groupings I saw in fields along the highway.

I had taken many walks in our Monmouth County parks before, but I hadn't seen them. At some point I began to notice them and it gave me the opportunity to photograph them. My Canon 20D digital camera and a 100 mm macro lens allowed me to take some 1:1 close-ups of the blossoms. In these photos, I used the built in flash, and settings of f32 and shutter speed of 1/200 sec. at ISO 400.

Click on Thumbnails to magnify

Common Milkweed
(Asclepias syriacea)

Early blossoms, light pink with dark,
purple markings.
Blossoms, turn yellow, just before


(Asclepias incarnata)

These are in our back yard next to our red shed, grown from seed.

I have found that in the wild, these tend to grow at the bottom of slopes probably where more water collects, however, the ones I seeded in my back yard are growing fine. One observation, however, is that the ones in the wild (from which I harvested the seed), are deeper purple than mine, where the soil is drier.

Butterfly Milkweed
(Asclepias tuberosa)


This group was seeded along our driveway.

From Buds to Blossoms

Tropical Milkweed (also known as Bloodflower)
(Asclepias curassavica)

This Variety grows as a perennial in the warmer climates, but can be planted as an annual in the colder climates. I ordered eight of these plants from butterflybushes.com at a very reasonable price. According to the tag, it may survive the winters in frost zone 7-10. The NJ coast is included in frost zone 7. It will be most interesting to see if they come back next year, but they are definitely worth ordering for planting if you appreciate them.


Butterflies lay their eggs in the milkweed flower. The caterpillars, that hatch feed on the plant, which contains a toxic sap (milk). The bitter sap makes the caterpiller less desirable for preditors.


Red and Orange


Other forms of milkweed: Tropical (Asclepias curassavica) or "Blood-flower," Desert Milkweed (Asclepias subulata) Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

All photos on this page ©2005 JAMES P. HAWKINS. Send e-mail to discuss fees for use in publications.

Accessed times since August 15, 2005.


Flowers with Horns and Claws by E. F. MOSBY
Texas Milkweed Photos

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