Desert Milkweed

Asclepias subulata

Asclepias subulata watercolor illustration © by Michael Plagens

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SUCCULENT: Several to many pencil-thick or slightly thicker smooth green stems rise to about a ½ meter to 1 meter tall.

LEAVES: A few linear leaves may be seen at growing tip of stems, but are soon deciduous leaving the plant essentially leafless.

RANGE: Occasional at various locations throughout the lower Sonoran Desert. Frequent in xeriscape plantings in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.

STEMS: When injured the stems exude copious milky latex.

FRUIT: Pods with wrinkled-looking valves. The seeds are comose (set with long silky hairs) for wind dispersal.  Dried pod valves hang onto the stems for many months after the seeds have dispersed.

FLOWERS: Five-pointed, star-shaped, white and borne in umbels of 8 to 15 flowers at the terminus of the stems.


Two kinds of insects will very often be found on this plant and often make cultivation difficult. Reddish bugs that often appear in dense groups are Milkweed Bugs. Then there are bright yellow aphids, Oleander Aphids that often encrust new growth and emerging flower buds.

Milkweed Bug   Oleander Aphid
Asclepias subulata in natural habitat of Sonoran Desert

Near San Luis R. C., Sonora, Mexico. 25 Jan. 2015.

Asclepiaceae -- Milkweed Family

More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 6 Nov. 2007,
updated 28 Jan. 2015.