Who said monarch, said milkweed
Milkweed is a flowering plant essential to the life cycle of the monarch, as it is the sole source of food for the caterpillars. The survival of the butterfly depends on the accessibility of this host plant. An important part of Mission Monarch is to identify and map milkweed in Canada. There are about a dozen species of milkweed in Canada, in nine of the ten provinces.
Check out the identification sheets to find and recognize milkweed species in your area.
Alberta British Colombia Manitoba New Brunswick Nova Scotia Ontario Prince Edward Island Quebec Saskatchewan
Pink Red Orange White Green Violet Yellow
Opposite Alternate Narrow Broad
Dry soils Wetlands
Stem: Downy (hairy), from 60 to 200 cm tall.
Umbels: Red or purplish-pink.
Leaves: Narrow, tapered, 4 to 17 cm long, arranged in opposite pairs.
Fruits: Long, narrow and smooth follicles, changing colour from green to brownish.
Habitat: Wetlands. Also found in swamps, ditches and near streams, rivers and lakes.
Population: Often scattered – does not form dense colonies.
Location: Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec
Stem: simple (unbranched) and downy, 30 to 60 cm tall.
Flowers: greenish white or pale violet corolla; orange or yellow corona.
Leaves: opposite, oval, with pointy tips, 5 to 8 cm long.
Habitat: likes sandy soil, roadsides and dry, sunny conditions.
Location: British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
Stem: 45 to 200 cm tall, velvety or pubescent (hairy).
Flowers: pale pink, arranged in umbels. The corona hoods are long (9 to 13 mm) and lance-shaped, making the flowers look like stars.
Leaves: opposite, 10 to 25 cm long, smooth or slightly downy.
Habitat: well-drained soil, sunny sites, pastures, swamps, forest edges, untilled fields, roadsides, ditches.
Location: British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba
Stem: downy, usually single, 90 to 120 cm tall. Underground stems.
Leaves: broad and thick, 10 to 20 cm long, arranged in opposite pairs on the stem and with pubescent undersides.
Flowers: pale pink or violet, arranged in almost spherical umbels.
Fruits: large spindle-shaped fruit, bumpy, rough and downy.
Habitat: poor, dry soil, disturbed, sunny sites.
Location: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island
Stem: 20 to 60 cm tall.
Flowers: bright orange-yellow, arranged in umbels.
Leaves: alternate on the stem (not opposite each other), lance-shaped, 5 to 10 cm long, smooth on top and downy beneath.
Habitat: limestone soils, open, rocky, dry sites. Does not tolerate shade.
Unique feature: no milky sap.
Distribution: Ontario, Quebec
Stem: angled, pubescent (hairy) or glabrous, 40 to 100 cm tall.
Flowers: white corona and greenish corolla.
Leaves: elongated and narrow, almost threadlike, 5 to 10 cm long. Arranged in groups of 2 to 4, opposite each other on the stem.
Fruits: elongated and lance-shaped, 7 to 10 cm long, glabrous or pubescent (hairy).
Habitat: dry, infertile soils.
Location: Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
Stem: 30 to 90 cm tall, pubescent, green and sometimes purplish.
Flowers: arranged in often downward-facing umbels, pale green sometimes tinged with violet. Unlike other milkweed species, the flowers of this species have no corona hoods.
Leaves: arranged in opposite pairs on the stem. Vary in shape depending on the habitat where the plant is found. They may be long and narrow or broader and oval. The leaf edges may sometimes be wavy.
Habitat: dry, sandy or rocky soils, but also in wetter sites like marshes.
Distribution: British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario