Using Butterfly Weed in Pollinator Habitat Establishment

Asclepias tuberosa, better known as butterfly weed, is a type of milkweed originating from eastern North America. Despite the name, butterfly weed is a very helpful plant, especially for pollinators. As a type of milkweed, it can play a vital role in the lifecycle of monarch butterflies. 

Butterfly weed usually grows between 1 ½ feet to 3 feet tall, producing clusters of vibrant, orange flowers. These radiant flowers are known to draw in butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, bees, and more. 

Butterfly weed can be found naturally across most states in the US, usually in prairies, open woods, and hillsides. Native Americans once used butterfly weed for a number of medicinal purposes, such as treating swelling, diarrhea, sore throats, rashes, and more.  

However, consuming butterfly weed in any capacity comes with risks. Like all milkweed, butterfly weed contains a compound known as cardiac glycosides, which is quite toxic to people. Today, butterfly weed is predominately used for establishing pollinator habitat. 

The Importance of Milkweed for Monarch Butterflies 

Beyond providing nectar for a variety of pollinatorsmilkweed such as butterfly weed serves as the birthing grounds for monarch butterflies. In fact, monarch butterflies will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae use the milkweed plant as a food source 

While the toxins in milkweed are harmful to most living creatures, the larvae actually absorb it, making themselves toxic to would-be predators. This toxin remains in their system throughout the rest of their life. 

Without the presence of milkweed, monarch butterflies won’t reproduce. Recent decades have seen a massive decline in the monarch butterfly population. While there are a number of factors at play, the loss of milkweed is considered to be a prime contributor to this. Unfortunately, many states have labeled milkweed as a noxious weed, making it a target for herbicide.  

By actively establishing milkweed, the monarch butterfly can be given a chance to thrive again. 

Butterfly Weed in CRP 

Due to its vibrant colors, rich nectar, and beneficial effects for the monarch butterfly, butterfly weed is a great addition to many CRP pollinator mixes. Butterfly weed is known to grow in spring and summer. You’ll want to balance out the orange color with two other colors for its bloom period. 

Before purchasing seed mix with butterfly weed, make sure that it is the appropriate type of milkweed for your area. You’ll also want to make sure that you are purchasing your seed from a reputable CRP seed company. 

At All Native Seed, we make it easy to find the high-quality CRP seed for the conservation practice that you’re enrolled in. To browse our own CRP seed mixes, click here. We have put over 100 years of combined experience into creating and improving these seed mixes, resulting in the highest purity and germination possible.  

We can also provide a quote for NRCS mixes here. 

If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask. Our CRP experts are here for you.