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Asclepias verticillata (horsetail milkweed, whorled milkweed)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Asclepias verticillata

horsetail milkweed, whorled milkweed

A widely adaptable and tough native that is a deer-resistant food for larval butterflies. The fine-textured foliage provides a dark green backdrop for the clusters of white flowers that appear in June and July.

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1-3 Feet


1-2 Feet


12 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8

horsetail milkweed, whorled milkweed Interesting Notes

Please note, Asclepias verticillata is highly toxic to livestock and horses - it should not be allowed to take root in pastures or hayfields.

"Many are the oohs and ahhs when my drifts are in full bloom. This petite enchanter has 1-2' stems densely hung with long needle-like leaves so they look something like a cartoon cat's tail after an electric shock. The sweet-scented white flowers open in midsummer, and side branches keep them coming for several weeks. In autumn the leaves turn yellow to orange, and the pencil thin seed capsules are very decorative once they split open. Clumps increase rapidly by runners, but it's easy to keep unwanted stems pulled or dug up. Prairies, meadows, and open woods of the eastern and central United States are its wild haunts." - Cole Burell, American Horticulturist, July/August 1998

Whorled milkweed is an attractive 1-2’ tall perennial with clusters of 10-20 small, greenish-white flowers in the axils of the upper leaves.  It is distinguished from other milkweeds by its smooth, needle-like, whorled leaves arranged on a generally unbranched stem.  It prefers full sun and handles dry, infertile soil well.  It will grow in richer soils under more moist conditions but spreads quickly by rhizomes, so is best used where colonies are desired.  The seedpods are ornamental when they open to release seeds attached to numerous silky white hairs. Some companions for this early to mid-summer bloomer include Echinacea pallida, Rudbeckia fulgida, Euthamia caroliniana, and Andropogon virginicus. - Mt. Cuba Center

The milkweed family name (Asclepiadaceae) is dedicated to the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios. Most of the 2400 species in this family are tropical. The specific epithet verticillata means "whorled" in botanical Latin. Whorled milkweed was first described for science by the great Swedish naturalist and father of modern plant taxonomy Carl von Linne (Linnaeus) in 1753.

Asclepias verticillata Growing and Maintenance Tips

Found in dry fields, roadsides and shale barrens - you can see that it needs no coddling. Best located in a sunny dry spot, but will tolerate average to moist garden soil as well.


Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
For Animals
Caution: Toxic
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Open pollinated