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Heart Leaf Milkweed
Asclepias cordifolia
About Heart Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) Nurseries Show All Photos Asclepias cordifolia is a species of milkweed commonly called Heart-leaf milkweed or Purple milkweed (not to be confused with Asclepias purpurascens, also commonly called Purple milkweed). It is native to the western United States (California, Nevada, Oregon), growing between 50-2000 meter elevation in the northern Sierra and Cascade ranges. Heart-leaf milkweed was valued by the Native American Miwok for its stems, which they dried and processed into cordage (string and rope). Monarch butterfly caterpillars eat the Heart-leaf milkweed leaves, which contain alkaloids that cause the butterfly to be unpalatable to predators. The species name, cordifolia (Latin for 'heart-leaved'), refers to the heart-shaped leaves, while the genus name honors the Greek physician Asclepius. Heart-leaf milkweed is a perennial that grows to a height of 0.3-0.6 meter, with dark red-purple flowers whose hoods are slightly elevated above the base of the corolla. The flower structure is unusual-it has five stamens fused into a column, with five circular attachments called 'hoods', and an anther head surrounding the large stigma at the flower's center. The fruit (photo at left) is a follicle with many flat seeds that have silky hairs which disperse easily in the wind. The large opposite leaves are heart-shaped, or heart-shaped. The plant grows in open or shaded woodland, often on rocky slopes and in mixed coniferous forest.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
1 - 2 ft (0.3 - 0.6 m)

Flower Color
Purple, Lavender, Red

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Rocky slopes, talus lava flows

Part Shade, Sun

Elevation ?
54' - 8643'

Annual Precip. ?
11.4" - 111.1"

Summer Precip. ?
0.22" - 3.64"

Coldest Month ?
26.0° F - 52.2° F

Hottest Month ?
51.0° F - 76.4° F

Humidity ?
0.14 vpd - 27.15 vpd

Soil Description
Grows best in decomposed Granite, and rocky soils


Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Butterfly Gardens, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Heart-leaf Milkweed, Heartleaf Milkweed, Purple Milkweed

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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