Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed.
Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly — without milkweed, the larva would not be able to develop into a butterfly.
By including milkweeds in gardens, landscaping, wildlife habitat restoration projects, and native revegetation efforts you can provide breeding habitat for monarchs and a valuable nectar source for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.
Native Milkweed Species
Protecting and planting milkweed populations is vital to the persistence of monarch populations. Plants from the milkweed family grow and bloom at various times throughout the year, providing resources to monarch and pollinators from early spring through fall. Below is a list of native milkweed species. Each of these is suitable for home gardens but try to use seed that is sourced as locally to your property or project site as possible. Milkweeds native to the United States:
Asclepias angustifolia (Arizona milkweed)
Asclepias asperula (Antelope horn, Spider Milkweed)
Asclepias californica (California milkweed)
Asclepias cordifolia (Heartleaf Milkweed)
Asclepias eriocarpa (Woolly Pod Milkweed)
Asclepias erosa (Desert Milkweed)
Asclepias exaltata (Poke Milkweed)
Asclepias fascicularis (Mexican Whorled, Narrowleaf Milkweed)
Asclepias humistrata (Sandhill, Pinewoods Milkweed)
Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
Asclepias oenotheroides (Sidecluster Milkweed, Zizotes Milkweed)
Asclepias perennis (Aquatic Milkweed)
Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
Asclepias subulata (Rush Milkweed)
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa L. (Butterfly Weed)
Asclepias variegata (White Milkweed)
Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed)
Asclepias vestita (Woolly Milkweed)
Asclepias viridis (Green Antelopehorn Milkweed)
Asclepias meadii (Mead’s milkweed) Rare and Endangered Species
Milkweed Seed Finder
Milkweed plants and seeds are available through several local resources. Check out this GrowNative! Resource list: DOWNLOAD HERE
The Xerces Society has launched a Milkweed Seed Finder database to make locating seeds in your state easier. Search for seeds in your state and contact the native plant nurseries that are listed to order milkweed seeds or plugs, then get planting!
Cool Fact – – Protective Chemistry
Milkweed contains a a variety of chemical compounds that make monarch caterpillars poisonous to potential predators. Milkweeds contain a cardiac (heart) poison that is poisonous to most vertebrates (animals with backbones) but does not hurt the monarch caterpillar. Some milkweed species have higher levels of these toxins than others. Monarchs show preference to some milkweed species.