Question and Answer

Is milkweed an invasive weed?

There are many species of milkweed native to North America and while “weed” is part of their name, these milkweeds are native, beneficial wildflowers. In the U.S., neither the federal government nor any states list milkweeds as noxious weeds. In fact at least five species are listed as state or federal endangered species (Borders, LeeMäder 2014). According to the North American Invasive Species Network, an invasive species is “a non-native species...whose introduction causes or is likely to cause  economic harm, environmental harm, or harm to human health.” The invasiveness of any plant depends on the characteristics of the species and where it is planted. Some species of milkweed, like common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), have a tendency to be more aggressive in garden settings or disturbed areas, and thus have a reputation of being “weedy”. If you are concerned about milkweed spreading too much, choose species that are native to your area, and avoid  species that are particularly good at vegetative, clonal reproduction or are prolific seed producers. Local garden centers, Master Gardeners or Master Naturalists, and other conservation authorities can help you choose the most appropriate native milkweed species to plant in your setting.

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