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Asclepias californica
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California Milkweed
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Asclepias californica

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About California Milkweed (Asclepias californica) Asclepias californica is a species in the Apocynaceae (Dogbane) family known by the common name California milkweed. It is native to California and northern Baja California from the East Bay region southward and the foothills of the Sierras. It is a flowering perennial with thick, white, woolly stems which bend or run along the ground. The plentiful, hanging flowers are rounded structures with reflexed corollas and starlike arrays of bulbous anthers. The flowers are dull to bright shades of lavender or pink and form an attractive contrast with the grey/white foliage. This plant was eaten as candy by the Kawaiisu tribes of indigenous California; the milky sap within the leaves is said to be flavorful and chewy when cooked.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
3 ft (0.9 m)

Max. Width
3 ft (0.9 m)


Summer Semi-Deciduous

Flower Color
Lavender, Pink, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Dry slopes, canyons, foothills with chaparral or woodlands; also disturbed areas, roadcuts


Elevation ?
3' - 8798'

Annual Precip. ?
4.0" - 50.7"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.95"

Coldest Month ?
32.8° F - 55.9° F

Hottest Month ?
55.2° F - 84.5° F

Humidity ?
1.07 vpd - 36.04 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates sand and clay

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 5° F

Companion Plants
Milkweeds are most often used to create a butterfly garden. A wide variety of trees and shrubs can be used including Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), Pines (Pinus sp.), Junipers (Juniperus sp.), Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Ceanothus sp., Oaks (Quercus sp.), and Coyote Brush (Baccharis sp.). Also include other butterfly-attracting herbs such as members of the Asteraceae family, other Milkweeds (Asclepias fascicularis or speciosa), thistles (Cirsium sp.), Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.), Mint (Monardella sp.), and Sage (Salvia sp.). Mix early bloomers with late bloomers and evergreens with deciduous to provide year-round attraction.

Wildlife Attracted
Milkweeds generally are host plants for Monarch butterflies and are essential to their survival. Native bees and other insects are also attracted.

Landscaping Information
Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Pest Control
It is important to avoid all chemical pest control around Milkweeds to protect Monarch butterflies and caterpillars.

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Butterfly Gardens, Bird Gardens

Nursery Availability
Rarely Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Asclepias californica ssp. greenei

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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