Butterfly weeds are medium-sized plants that get bushier as they grow older. They form clumps of upright stalks with narrow pointed leaves topped by 2 - 4 inch-diameter clusters of orange or yellow flowers. It blooms from April to September. This common urban plant grows to a height of 1 1/2 to 2 feet.
As a long lived perennial, butterfly weed may take as long as 4 years before it reaches full size. It reproduces by seeds or root division.
Butterfly weed stores food and water in a large taproot. This allows it to survive during the long dry Texas summers. Because it is adapted to dry conditions butterfly weed is more likely to die from too much water than not enough. Butterfly weed is occasionally used by Monarch butterflies as a caterpillar food plant but is not preferred because its sap is not poisonous enough to prevent other animals from eating them.
Butterfly weed really lives up to its name. It attracts a wide range of butterflies to the abundant nectar that it produces. Butterfly weed belongs to the milkweed family. Unlike other members of its group it doesn't ooze a sticky white sap if damaged.
Butterfly weed grows in sunny locations on well-drained sand, loam, clay or limestone soils.
Butterfly weed is found throughout the state of Texas but is more common in the eastern two-thirds. This species is widespread in the eastern half of the U.S.
Pioneers and native Americans used boiled butterfly weed roots to treat diarrhea, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. The down from milkweed seeds was spun to make candlewicks. The young seed pods were boiled with several changes of water and eaten like okra.