Asclepias Flower Meaning & Symbolism: 7 Important Interpretations

Asclepias, also known as milkweed or butterfly weed flowers, are complex-looking, yet breathtakingly beautiful blooms. They get their common name from the milky sap they produce, and are known for their sweet fragrance. But what are the Asclepias flower meaning and symbolism?

For the longest time, Asclepias were linked with healing thanks to their medicinal value. They also symbolize dignity and nourishment because of their strong bond to Monarch butterflies. They can be signs of freedom and letting go of the past, or remembrance of a loved one.

Asclepias closeup

With a name derived from Greek mythology and ties to Indian creation myths, Asclepias are powerful symbols in different cultures. Read on to learn more about these fascinating flowers.

Asclepias Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Asclepias is a huge genus of more than 200 different perennial herb species that belong to the family Apocynaceae. They flower into gorgeous blooms in the summer to early autumn. They’re indigenous to the Americas and have been incorporated into Native American diets and folk medicine for thousands of years.

The look of an Asclepias flower is unique in its complexity, which inspired multiple interpretations and symbolisms to be attached to the plant. Aside from the 5-pointed sepals and petals, Asclepias also has an extra set of petal-like leaves called a corona, which means crown.

Meanings attached to milkweeds tend to transcend their colors, although they vary from pure white to deep, dark purple. So what do these regal-looking Asclepias represent?

1.   Healing

The first meaning attached to Asclepias flowers comes from their name, given to them after Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. He was the son of the god Apollo and a mortal woman called Coronis

Asclepius was prayed to in the case of snake bites and so his symbol became a serpent-entwined staff, called the Rod of Asclepius. This symbol is used to this day to identify healthcare facilities.

Asclepias plants have been used as medicine in many cultures, starting from the Native American tribes who used the herbaceous plant as a treatment for rheumatism. It then went on to be regarded as a purgative, emetic, diuretic, and tonic.

The “milk” of the plant, a latex sap, is still used today as a topical medication for some skin conditions. Moreover, the Asclepias plan produces cardiac glycosides, which are compounds that help the heart regain its function after heart failure.

2.   Dignity

Asclepias flowers are a sight to behold for their upstanding, dignified blooms, and intricate floral structure. This produces an air of regal dignification and gives you a sense of reservation.

Asclepias Flowers

The flowers are colorful, but not showy with shades of white, yellow, orange, red, and purple. This adds to the air of mystique that makes Asclepias the perfect symbol for dignity.

3.   Remembrance

The solemn meaning of Asclepias is twinged with nostalgia and sad remembrance of loved ones who’ve passed on. This makes the flowers a tasteful and beautiful addition to bouquets meant for funeral and memorial services.

Pure white and dark purple Asclepias are both good options for mourning bouquets. Although red can also be fitting, just like red poppies are a sign of remembrance.

4.   Freedom

Asclepias can also signify freedom as they grow in the wild, in rough conditions, and yet blossom into strong and beautiful flowers. This is best represented by yellow, orange, and red Asclepias species that represent the fiery nature of the human spirit.

You can give Asclepias to someone who’s just had a breakthrough. It would make for a wonderful gift after graduating high school or before moving to a new city to start a new adventure.

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5.   Nourishment

This meaning is loaded with historical significance, since Asclepias plants were a staple food for Native American tribes, like the Chippewa and the Sioux.

The boiled sap of the plant was turned into chewing gum. The tender shoots of Asclepias look and taste a lot like Asparagus, and so were eaten the same way. The seed pods were boiled like beans and eaten as a stew. Moreover, the flowers were boiled with sugar to make a jam-like preparation. The milky sap was also used to promote lactation in new mothers.

In the animal world, Asclepias flowers are the sole source of nourishment to the Monarch caterpillar, which earns the plant the name of “butterfly weed.” The butterflies also have a special relationship with the plant, which we’ll explore in the next meaning.

6.   Protection

Asclepias flowers are the breeding ground and reinforced quarters of Monarch butterflies. They consume its sap, which mingles with their bodily secretions and acts as a deterrent for predators. That’s because it has multiple toxins that also make the butterflies taste unpleasant.

The corona on the top of the flower also looks like a shielding armor, which provides safety and security in the face of danger.

This makes Asclepias a powerful symbol of protection, which is an appreciated sentiment to offer to your loved ones who need some extra support in their lives.

7.   Letting Go

Asclepias Flower tuberosa

Lastly, Asclepias are a symbol of letting go of the past and looking forward to the future. This is an especially touching interpretation because our fears hold us back and keep us caged in nostalgia. Meanwhile, letting go can broaden our horizons and drive us forward to better places.

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Knowing the depth of the Asclepias flower meaning should help you better appreciate these gorgeous, yet powerful blooms. Their complex structure and long history impart many profound meanings and symbolisms that are much more than meets the eye.

Their common name, milkweed, derives from their white sap that’s been used in medicine for millennia. Ancient civilizations saw them as a healing symbol, naming them after the Greek god of medicine.

In their native land, the Americas, they were used as a food source and regarded with an eye of reverence for their connection to Monarch butterflies. These butterflies rely on Asclepias flowers as their habitat, their food, and their protection.

Lastly, they offer grieving families a chance of remembrance for their loved ones, and can symbolize letting go of the past to go somewhere better.