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Growing rare milkweeds

William Kelly
October 5, 2017

Just wanted to let people know that I am growing clasping milkweed, sandhill milkweed, Indian milkweed, pallid milkweed, hall's milkweed, broadleaf milkweed, heartleaf milkweed, woolly milkweed, purple milkweed, rush milkweed,white-stemmed milkweed,tropical milkweed, common milkweed,ice ballet milkweed, swamp milkweed, green antalope horns, western sand milkweed, prairie milkweed,butterfly weed,poke milkweed whorled milkweed,and showy milkweed,. If anybody has information about growing these and what requirements each species needs to grow well I would love to know. I will be sharing some seeds if anyone wants some in the next couple of years, but right now most of my milkweed plants are small plants or seedlings. If anyone has other milkweed species I don't have I would love to trade. I still have lots of milkweed seeds to trade. I would love zizotes milkweed,dwarf milkweed,redring milkweed,some clasping milkweed seeds, serpentine milkweed, mojave milkweed,California milkweed etc....

Here are some pics of some of my milkweed.

Comments (270)

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    By Arizona you mean angustifolia? They have seeds available for it. I'm tempted. This years seed harvest is in. Time to check, check , check. I'm getting ready to start germinating the Calotropis. There's a third species that's medicinal, Calotropis acia.

    Calotropis acia, Nepal

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Frerea indica, Western Ghats India. In a transitional stage, part leafy, part succulant. It almost went extinct, but was brought back from the brink. It is the only member of the genus Frerea. Perhaps it traveled with the landmass that broke apart from Africa and Madagascar 100 million years ago. It would have had to survive the Passage of India over the Deccan Traps. That event coinsided with the Chixalub impact that wiped out the dinosaurs and most other lifeforms on earth around 66 million years ago. This little Frerea indica survived all that. The will to live is the most powerful force next to Life itself! Could be a reason for it's hindered evolution, but quite beautiful asclep if ever there was one. The Gnats of India are rich in biodiversity.

    As the supercontinent continued to break up, North America split apart and drifted away from Africa, carrying those ancient ascleps with it, and an insect that would shape their evolution. Danaus plexippus. All hail the mighty Monarch butterfly, straight from the whimsical imagination of the AUTHOR OF LIFE. Our test! If we cannot rise and become enlightened enough to unravel the causes we have brought on to cause its decline, and if we fail to reverse our actions and save it from the brink, then we humans are doomed!

    http://www.indefenseofplants.com/blog/2018/10/2/the-genus-ceropegia-just-got-a-whole-lot-bigger I guess the good thing about this article is that you can now call anything in Stapeliae Ceropegia and you won't be wrong. Techinically. I think? ???


  • Jay 6a Chicago

    The asclep that wants to be a tulip. Socotrella dolichocnema. Just recently discovered on the island of Socotra.

  • wantonamara Z8 CenTex

    Your link above is broken. I think it is missing a p at the end.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    It works for me. ??? And I always, always check!

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Asclepias auriculata, Southern Mexico. There isn't much online information for this species, and Asclepias engelmanniana comes up, making it look like a synonym, but they are two distinct species, engelmanniana having much narrower leaves.

    Asclepias barjonifolia, Bolivia. Named after the closely related Asclepiadoideae genus Barjonia, A South American genus with 7 species.

    Barjonia decne

    The Eucalyptus like Barjonia decne.

    Barjonia cymosa.

    If you like the leaves, the North American species Asclepias humistrata and A. latifolia have a similar foliar feel.

    Asclepias boliviensis, Bolivia to northern Argentina. There is no picture or description of this plant anywhere on the internet. It was recorded in 2012, and is on the plant list. Hard to rescue something from the brink when you're not aware of it's existence.

    On their way to becomming the most complex dicots, Gentians ditched their blue color but always held onto that 5 pointed flower configuration. They ditched the color, that is until Tweedia caerulea came along, or is it Oxypetalum coeruleum? I think it's Tweedia at the moment but not 100% lol! Tweedia is reported to not be a good Monarch host plant. Newly hatched Monarch caterpillars that were placed on Tweedia leaves refused to eat them. An excellent vine that Monarchs love is Cynanchum laeve. It can be agressive in a garden situation.


  • William Kelly

    So far my greenhouse plants are doing fantastic! I haven't waters them in 5 days and there still growing strong.

    Does anyone recommend starting milkweed seeds in a greenhouse?

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    I think it would be fine. Warmth and light, without electricity, good deal. Wish I had a greenhouse. I'd be starting lots of milkweeds in it instead of under artificial light. It would be great for starting the Calotropis. The only issue would be how many hours of light you want everything to get. If you want more hours than the winter sun can provide then you will need suplimental lighting to make up the difference. Young, vegetating stage plants can take a lot of light. I think the International Asclepias Society has information available about Stapelia germination on their site. Members have access to seeds, but the milkweed selection is poor with nothing interesting. On the other hand if you are into growing all the exotic succulants and Ceropegias there is a treasure trove of seeds available, and members can talk and trade, there being several members in SOUTH AFRICA, oh I hear my song, with some other members over in Belgium and the Nederlands because those people have a major thing about growing rare, exotic tropicals from the most remote locations, and they take their plants very, very seriously! LOL

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Seed starting directions for Stapelia, and hurry, they don't stay viable for long!


  • Jay 6a Chicago

    This is an article on how to hand pollinate the succulant Stapeliads and also create new hybrids. It doesn't work for milkweeds (Asclepias) because the Stapeliads have evolved new structures to allow them to be pollinated by flies and qnats. It's a very complicated procedure involving a microscope, hair thin wire, forceps, and beanbags to keep your hands steady.


  • Jay 6a Chicago

    This is a guide to growing Calotropis from seed and keeping it in a greenhouse.


  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Leptadenia pyrotechnica. Africa and Asia. Used to hold soil in desert reclaimation efforts. An important go to medicinal for native peoples in its area with much of its use for skin diseases and other issues. I don't know how the species got its name. As far as I know it doesn't spontaniously catch on fire, and I haven't heard about any connection to the burning bush that Moses supposedly saw on a mountain, many, many years ago.

    This species does remind me of Asclepias subulata. Both species have adapted to hot, dry, arid conditions. Asclepias subulata seeds are available at the moment on some of the bigger sites.

    Leptadenia flowers.

    Asclepias subulata, Rush milkweed.

    Asclepias subulata.


  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Microloma, another of the several Asclepiadoideae genera. African vines with thin strap-like leaves. In all the pictures I've seen they had red flowers, but I don't know if that's true for the entire species. Microloma tenuifolium, not a look you'd normally expect to see in an asclep.

    Microloma sagittatum

    Microloma calycinum

  • Stephen Powell

    looks like cake icing decorations from those icing tubes

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Yeah, I see what you mean.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Asclepias sperryii, Texas

    Well, autumn is here and I've started my winter sowing. I don't remember exactly when it was that I read Will's thread and decided to grow a bunch of milkweeds as well. I've been collecting seeds all year. I wan't to first of all grow the 20 some species that are native to my area. There are also a few that I'm trying that range a bit further out, but I had to have them. For the time being I'm not growing the west coast/California species until I know more about what's involved as far as care goes. I haven't heard any information about the care involved from anyone attempting it. Asclepias angustifolia, subulata, californica, solaoana, linearis, fascicularis, eriocarpa seeds are all available now, but I'm passing on them at least for the time being. I'm only growing the milkweeds that feed Monarch cats. I don't grow any succulant Stapelias or exotic Ceropegia vines. If I lived in California or Florida I most definately would. Absolute mind blowing plants. These are the Asclepiads I'm sowing and growing.

    Asclepias arenaria


    A. cordifolia

    A.curassavica, straight, yellow

    A. exaltata


    A. hirtella

    A. incarnata, straight, white


    A. oenotheroides

    A. ovalifolia

    A. perennis

    A. pumilla

    A. purpurescens

    A. speciosa

    A. stenophylla

    A. sullivantii

    A. tuberosa

    A. variegata

    A. verticillata

    A. viridiflira

    A. viridis

    Calotropis gigantea

    Calotropis procera

    Cynanchum laeve

    Gomphocarpus cancellatus

    Gomphocarpus fruticosa

    Gomphocarpus physocarpus

    Tweedia caerlei

    There are still some species I'm looking for. My natives, A. amplexicaulis, A.quadrifolia, A. lanuginosa, A. meadii, A. longifolia, and A. engelmanniana. Others I want because they're cool are A. humistrata, A. sperii, A. rubra, ect, ect, I WANT THEM ALL!

    Next I'll be talking about the kelp-like marine asclepiads that have evolved to use shrimp as pollinators. :)) I chatted with a fellow milkweed nerd from Texas and even he can't get his hands on the really off the hook, rare Texas natives. There is the A. prostrata that looks a lot like the Mohave milkweed, but not as flashy, and the sperryii. That is one awesome yellow flowered milkweed. You know, now that I see the list on the screen it looks kind of short. I think I need about 3 times that amount. I wonder how many species Will Kelly is growing now. I wonder if Will even knows how many species he's growing lol. Hey Will, how many species are you growing NOW???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????*????????????????????????????

    Asclepias prostrata, Texas

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Asclepias flava, South Africa. No photos of live plants, information, or descriptions.

    Asclepias foliosa, Zambia. Almost nothing recorded for this species.

    Asclepias foliosa

    Asclepias fournieri, Mexico. Just one photo from a nature lover at inaturalist.org

    That bit about the marine asclepiads, I just made that up lol, but there are still several million years of evolutionary history yet to be written.

  • William Kelly

    I would not recommend growing a bunch of west coast native milkweed seeds on the east coast. Theres just to many problems. I'll still try to grow them but not focus heavily on those species. I'll have to count I'll the species I have to see how many I'm growing. Wow! I didn'tknow some of those species existed Jay!

    @Stephen Powell could you post a pic of your A. Soloanoa plants?

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    That's funny Will. I was looking at Dave's garden and you were telling someone that a certain milkweed really existed. That does seem to happen a lot when you actually do wonder if some of them exist because there are no pictures or observations. I do get tempted to grow the eriocarpa with it's fuzzy leaves, but I have a feeling it would be too wet here. If I could just find seeds for the lanuginosa, it's got furry leaves. Every day I learn about a couple new Asclepiad species. I just read there's over 2000 species in Saudi Arabia alone. That would mean that the worldwide total for all Asclepiads would be much much greater than the 3000 species listed now as supreme total. Are you growing A. rubra? That's another milkweed that's hard to find seeds for. I wouldn't mind hearing about someone on the west coast growing west coast milkweeds. Hey Marcus, how are things going with your milkweeds?

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Cordylogne globosa, South Africa

    Pectinaria namaquensis, Africa and Arabian penninsula.

    Pectinaria articulata, Africa and Arabian penninsula.

    Pseudopectinaria malum. And we thought their flowers couldn't possibly get weirder! Africa and Arabian penninsula.

    Pseudopectinaria malum. How do insects squeeze in there to pollinate? Looks like one of the species that traps flies and gnats so they can accidently pollinate as they're scrambling to get free. A cross section of the 'flower' might show some strange flower morphology.

    ??? Lost the id but it's really cool!

    Edithcolea grandis, Persian carpet plant.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Glossonema boveanum, Israel.

    Glossonema boveanum

    Glossonema boveanum horned seedpod.


  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Quaqua mammillaris, Namibia.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Brachystelma bracteolatum

    Brachystelma plocamoides

    Jobinia, South and Central America. There are a lot of these similar types of milkweed vines all over the world. The common species that are more familiar are Cynanchum, Funastrum, and Matelea, but there are hundreds more that are given different species names.

    Brachystelma, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Australasia. First described in 1822. Leafy, sometimes caudiciform, having flowers like leafy Ceropegias but also some like the Stapeliads. Most species have odorless flowers, but a few emit a foul, putrid odor especially Brachystelma barberae. Many of the caudiciforms are edible and eaten by bushmen.
    Brachystelma megasepalum

    Brachystelma maritae

    Brachystelma maritae

    Brachystelma barberae

    Brachystelma pulchellum

    Seedpods of Brachystelma barberae.

    Brachystelma meyerianum

    Brachystelma filifolium. In the midst of riotous race car color and form.......soft....beautiful........fragile.....sublime... . . . . . . .

  • William Kelly

    25 Redring milkweed seeds on Ebay for $14. Hurry these seeds won't last long!

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Will, it's comforting to know that someone else besides me is checking ebay every day for milkweed seeds lol! Too bad you can't filter out all the tuberosas, incarnatas, syriacas, ect. REDWING SEEDS 25 4 $12 EBAY RIGHT NOW!

  • Loretta NJ Z6

    I ordered them so we will see. Did either of you order? I normally don't trust seeds on ebay but this one seemed OK.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    I ordered 25. I haven't had any problems with seeds from them so far. They are still listed. Good luck with yours Loretta! Does anyone have Asclepias rubra seeds?

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Variegata seeds are still going for $14 on ebay. They are coming from a gardenweb member who at one time was desperate to find variegata seeds, but now has more variegata plants than he knows what to do with. A logical progression. I get it. In my case there are multiple species that I'm desperate to find seeds for and it will be an uphill battle to ever aquire Mead's mikkweed or the also gorgeous sidecluster miljweed. Will Kelly, I'm very interested in knowing exactly how many species you are growing now. Somehow in the seed sowing frenzy I misplaced a few milkweed seeds and had to put in some last minute milkweed seed orders. Not a bad first year at growing many kinds of milkweeds. I did find variegata seeds, collected the majority of my native species, found seeds for a couple rare and interesting milkweeds, A. humistrata and Gomphocarpus cancellatus. My desperate search for the elusive natives continues. Good wishes for all you asclep lovers out there. LARGE NUMBERS OF EASTERN MONARCH BUTTERFLIES REACH MEXICAN WINTERING GROUNDS!

    This is the reason we grow milkweeds. May they continue forever!

    Be fruitful, and multiply!!


  • Loretta NJ Z6

    I'm sure some of mine did! This is my second year. Last year I had about 28. This year over 100!

  • Loretta NJ Z6

    The redring seeds came yesterday. Some are smallish but they look like they have embryos. They aren't floppy if you put pressure to them. They come in a regular small envelope in a 1x1 ziplock with little squares of bubble wrap on each side, taped to a paper. One side of the bubble wrap was popped but the seeds seem OK.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Please read this. It may make a huge difference to the way you've been growing milkweeds.


    Loretta, I recieved my variegata seeds too. Will Kelly, please read this article. I'd love to discuss this subject with you. I'm ordering mycorrhizal fungi and using it on my milkweeds. Jay

  • Jay 6a Chicago


    All you milkweed growers in the west need to wake up and start cutting back your milkweeds and sanitizing them. Because they grow all year they are building up huge ammounts of the OE pathogen.

  • William Kelly

    Wow that article is very interesting!

  • Loretta NJ Z6

    This statement made the first article a little vague.

    “In some species of milkweed, the presence of the fungi was beneficial for the caterpillars. In some species, it had no effect. And in other milkweed species, the presence of the fungi resulted in more disease for the caterpillars.”

  • javiwa

    Received my A. variegata seeds, too! IIRC, vendor said to cold stratify the seeds for one month. I'm a little confused: what's the difference between winter sowing and cold stratification? Is winter sowing done strictly outdoors where the weather actually gets very cold (a la milk jug techniques), whereas CS mimics WS in warmer climates by placing the seeds into the fridge (whether in moistened paper towels or in moistened potting media)?

    Thanks for the article, Jay. I've taken a couple of runs at the actual scientific paper, but got bleary eyed. O_o Like Loretta, I focused on the same statement in the overview (helpful, neutral, detrimental) and would like to see which MWs are in the helpful and detrimental categories: would like to help, but don't want to risk doing more harm than good.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    When you winter sow it's the same as cold treatment. If they stay cold for 2 or 3 months it won't matter. The cold prevents them from sprouting. I was just wondering about my Asclepias humistrata seeds. They grow in Florida, but also in North Carolina. I'm just sowing them in the bins. No soaking. The species from the south I'm not soaking. I'm starting to think soaking isn't neccesary because they will be moist all winter. There are some seeds that seem to germinate better with warm water soaking. Callirhoe, winecup, is supposed to germinate better with a warm water soak.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Loretta, I'm going to look deeper into the fungus thing. It seems that the mycirrhizae are vital for the health of the milkweed plants though.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Hemidesmus indicus.

    India, used in ayurvedic medicine.

    Fanninia caloglossa

    South Africa

    Only species in it's genus.

    Decabelone grandiflora.

    Decabelone meintjesii

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    They say a lot of the old world Asclepias species have been now placed in the genus Gomphocarpus. There is supposed to be 200 species in Gomphocarpus but about the most I can find any information or picture of on the internet is 6 species. Most searches for Gomphocarpus bring up everything about G. physocarpus and G. fruticosa. Here are the few other Gomphocarpus species that I could find.

    Gomphocarpus filiformis.

    Gomphocarpus glaucophyllus.

    Gomphocarpus glaucophyllus.

    Gomphocarpus cancellatus

    Gomphocarpus cancellatus.

    Gomphocarpus cancellatus.

  • Loretta NJ Z6

    Interesting article about the spread of milkweed and monarchs.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Yeah, at least with these other new populations the species won't be doomed entirely if they/we can't fix the north American problem.

  • Jay 6a Chicago

    Holostemma ada-kodien, India.

    Periglossum mackenii, South Africa

    Orbeanthus cunjunctus, South Africa.

    Asclepias cryptoceras, western United States.

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