Asclepias fruticosa

Botanical name

Asclepias fruticosa

Other names

Milkweed; wild cotton; swan plant; melkbos (Afrikaans); tontelbos (Afrikaans)


Asclepiadaceae/ Apocynaceae


Small evergreen perennial shrub, usually around 1 m to 1,5 m in height; exudes a milky latex

Description of stem

Erect, straight, light green stem that tends to branch higher up only; turns grey to brown in mature specimens

Description of leaves

Simple, lanceolate to linear, alternate, glabrous, light green; margin entire, apex sharply pointed

Description of flowers

Axillary umbels of 5 to 10 creamy white flowers; lobed and reflexed corolla around laterally flattened corona lobes

Desciption of seed/fruit

Inflated green and later light brown, papery pod or follicle; short bristly hair cover the outer surface; dark seeds have silvery cotton wool-like attachments that facilitate wind distribution

Description of roots

Sometimes a taproot, but in hard ground a few main roots meander just below the surface of the ground, often further than the height of the plant



Propagation and cultivation

Grown from seed, although it tends to invade and is not often planted


Takes over neglected pieces of veld or cultivated fields


In traditional medicine taken as a snuff (ground dried leaves); as leaf infusions used orally for intestinal disorders or in children as an enema as a purgative; also used for headaches and tuberculosis

Ecological rarity

Very common

Pests and diseases



The highveld grassland has twelve species of Asclepias inhabitants; A. fruticosa is a troublesome weed in Australia, at least in Queensland


Grassland and disturbed ground; a road-side weed; different soil types

Distribution (SA provinces)

All SA provinces


South Africa; Lesotho; Swaziland; Zimbabwe; Namibia; Botswana


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