Tropical Milkweed and OE

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is commonly found in garden centers and is easy to grow. However, recent research has suggested that gardeners should avoid tropical milkweed and plant native species instead. Unlike native milkweeds that do dormant in the fall, tropical milkweed grows year-round in most parts of Florida. This encourages the monarch to stay all winter instead of migrating to Mexico. The tropical milkweed plant can be infected with a protozoan parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) that can be transmitted to butterflies and cause deformed wings and other developmental issues. 

Infected monarch butterflies feed on tropical milkweed, which causes the parasite OE population to grow. Image: Mary Ann Pigora

It’s important to know that the non-native tropical milkweed may cause disease buildup in monarchs. If you do choose to grow tropical milkweed, current recommendations say to cut this milkweed back to the ground once in the fall to stop any possible disease buildup.

The Florida Native Plant Society and Florida Wildflower Foundation also advise against growing tropical milkweed and planting native species instead. We have 21 species of milkweed native to Florida to choose from. Find your local native plant nursery at

Listen to our UF/IFAS webinar on tropical milkweed and OE disease to hear from our statewide butterfly expert, Dr. Jaret Daniels.


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Posted: June 1, 2024

Category: Agriculture, , Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Pests & Disease, UF/IFAS Extension, Wildlife
Tags: Butterflies, Butterfly Garden, Florida, Florida Native Plants, Milkweed, Monarch, Native Plants, OE, Pollinators

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