This tough and widespread shrub, growing to 3' tall, is an important host plant for monarch butterflies. It has white to cream-colored flowers, sometimes with a tinge of purple. The attractive blue-gray leaves are hairy with a noticeable midvein, and the fruits are fat, tapering to a blunt tip. This species is widely distributed throughout the state, except in montane regions. It's found in dry rocky areas and also along stream banks.
It is hard to resist slitting the fat fruits along the seam with a fingernail, to watch the flat brown seeds with their feathery attachments float through the air. Planting milkweed in gardens away from the coast, where monarchs can find them, is highly recommended. Though monarchs may overwinter along the coast, they breed inland, and it is here that restoring milkweed can be most effective. This plant may go dormant in colder gardens.
Indian Milkweed is grown as part of a program initiated by the Xerces Society, whose goal is to protect waning Monarch butterfly populations. The demise of inland populations of milkweed, which are necessary to Monarch reproduction, are a big part of the problem. Widespread use of herbicides is another. Go to www.xerces.org/milkweed/ for more information.
There are 75-100 seeds per packet, enough for 20 to 30 plants.