Botanical Name: Asclepias verticillata
Common Name: Whorled Milkweed, Eastern Whorled Milkweed, Horsetail Milkweed
Description: Whorled milkweed is one of the smaller, more delicate native milkweeds. It is found in pinelands throughout much of Florida. When not in bloom, it is easily overlooked because its narrow leaves blend in with the grasses among which the plant typically grows. Like all milkweeds, Whorled milkweed is a larval host plant for the Monarch, Queen, and Soldier butterflies. The very pretty greenish/white flowers bloom late spring through late summer/early fall, attracting a variety of pollinators including bees and beneficial wasps. It does not rely on pollinators to reproduce, however, as it spreads vegetatively. Let the seedpods mature so it’ll reseed itself. It grows naturally in moderately moist to moderately dry, sandy to calcareous soils with acidic to neutral pH. Likes sun to part sun areas of your garden. It is a good choice for your rain garden. Quickly grows 1-3′ tall x 1′ wide. Somewhat drought tolerant once established, but grows best if given supplemental water during extended droughts. Is deer and rabbit resistant.
Caution: Whorled milkweed is considered the most toxic of all milkweeds, specifically to livestock, and as such should not be planted where cattle are known to forage.
Flowers are born in pedicellate umbels in groups of 15–20. The corolla is reflexed and white to greenish-white with tips that may be tinged in reddish-purple. Pedicels are purplish. Leaves are long, linear and sessile. Margins may be entire or revolute. Leaves are arranged in whorls around the stem (hence the common name). Stems are thin and glabrous. Seeds are ovately flat with many fine, silky hairs (pappus) attached to their apices that aid in dispersal. They are born in smooth narrow follicles that split open as the fruit matures.
Not salt tolerant of inundation by salty or brackish water. Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 8-15″ tall.
Plant Lore: The genus Asclepias is named for Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, because some Asclepias species, such as A. tuberosa, are known to have medicinal properties. The species epithet verticillata refers to the verticillate (i.e. whorled) arrangement of the leaves.
Florida Hardiness Zones 8 – 10