Tropical Milkweed
Blood flower

Tropical Milkweed

Asclepias curassavica

Photo by Jenn Sinasac

Commonly known as Tropical Milkweed, Scarlet Milkweed and Blood Flower, this plant is a member of the family Apocynaceae, the dogbane family. The genus Asclepias (the milkweeds) are named after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, for the many medicinal uses of the milkweed plants. As their common name suggests, they have milky sap, of many species contains toxins and can cause injury. Tropical Milkweed is an evergreen perennial shrub. It grows to 1 meter tall and has pale gray stems. The leaves are oblong and end in a sharp point at the tip, and are arranged oppositely. The inflorescence has 10-12 flowers with red corollas and yellow or orange petals, and flowers all year round. Fruits are 5-10 cm long, and contain small, flat, oval seeds with silky hairs for wind dispersal, similar to other milkweeds.

Tropical Milkweed is a source of food for many species of butterflies, and like other milkweeds, particularly for both larvae and adult Monarch and Queen butterflies (subfamily Danainae), and is a favorite flower for planting in butterfly gardens. Tropical Milkweed is native to the Neotropics, and has been introduced to other tropical regions worldwide. It can be found throughout the forests of Panama.