Asclepias curassavica (ASCLEPIADACEAE) Red-head Cotton Bush

Weeds to Whack

An erect perennial herb, native to tropical America, sometime developing a woody base, to about 1 m in disturbed sites such as roadsides, creek banks and neglected pastures. Stems are slender and erect and exude a milky sap (latex). Leaves are opposiite, narrowly elliptical to narrowly oblong with a pointed tip and a gradually narrowing base. Dark green to mid green above, paler below. Scattered hairs above and below. Large fruit are narrowly egg-shaped (ovoid) and tapering at both ends. The fruits split lengthwise, releasing dark brown seeds with cotton-like tufts of hairs. Also known as Scarlet Milkweed, Bloodflower, Swallow-wort, Butterfly Weed, Mexican Milkweed. Named for Asklepios, pronounced ass-KLE-pee-us, the god of healing in Greek mythology. Curassavica, pronounced ku-ra-SAV-ik-uh, means from Curacao in the Caribbean. Nectar attracts Monarch Butterflies.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Flowers Close-up

Flowers have five red petals fused at the base and a yellowish-orange central crown in clusters on a stalk late winter to late autumn. Weed rating 3.4 out of 5 by the Queensland Herbarium.

Photo: Robert Whyte