Milkweed, Hemp Dogbane, and Butterfly Weed

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As I’ve driven around lately, I’ve noticed more milkweed than usual. Milkweed, and related species such as hemp dogbane and butterfly weed. While these plants are most commonly known for their ability to attract butterflies and other pollinators, they are a nuisance in a pasture or hayfield. Milkweed and Hemp Dogbane is recognized by the milky substance that comes out of the stem and leaves when crushed.

Before beginning the process of working to control these weeds, it’s important to understand the growth pattern of these species. While they do spread by way of seeds, milkweed and hemp dogbane can also spread through rhizomes, basically meaning it will create new plants from the original root system. These plants are also perennials. All of these factors combined make control a multi-year process.

It’s important to note that there are several different types of milkweed, but Common Milkweed is most prominent in our area.

Common Milkweed Flower

Common Milkweed Flower. Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Common Milkweed seed pods

Common Milkweed seed pods. Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Hemp dogbane is notoriously difficult to control and is said to be poisonous to livestock. It has a red-colored stem, in contrast to Common Milkweed’s brown one. It also has several stems and bean-shaped seed pods.

Hemp Dogbane

Hemp Dogbane. Courtesy of Iowa State University

Hemp Dogbane flowers

Hemp Dogbane flowers. Courtesy of Iowa State University

Hemp Dogbane seed pods

Hemp Dogbane seed pods. Courtesy of Iowa State University

Butterfly weed has very showy orange flowers and is sometimes used in landscapes.

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed seed pod

Butterfly Weed seed pod. Courtesy of NC State University

Dr. Neil Rhodes, Extension Specialist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, recommends mixing two quarts of Remedy Ultra and two quarts of non-ionic surfactant in a 100-gallon tank filled with water, and spot-spraying these species until thoroughly wet. Herbicide application is most effective on these species when they are blooming.

For more information, contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Stokes County at 336-593-8179.