Asclepias Monkey Balls ;)

Furr Balls plant

Asclepias Monkey Balls plant. Oh my word, the nickname of this plant is Monkey Balls. I have been talking about it for days now. The clusters of hanging flowers gives absolutely no clue that it will produce these furry balls all over the plant. We stand amazed as the butterflies and bees swarm all over.

Furr Balls plant from Kew Society by Thompson and Morgan seeds

Milkweeds are a great nectar food source for bees and butterflies and a larval food source for Monarch Butterflies. I’m helping to track the Monarch migration on their journey back to Mexico. I signed up at Monarch Butterfly Journey North. I don’t see my entries up yet for NC but my first sighting was on August 15th. They are migrating from the North back to Mexico where they’ll stay for the winter.

Furr BallsClick the photos to enlarge! You’ll see one close up.

I’ve seen the Monarchs out several times today on my flowers but every time I go out to get a picture, they fly away. They seem to be twice as shy as the swallowtails. The swallowtails will sit and pose for you.


They are drawn to the Mexican Sunflowers and the Furr Balls plant that grow in my garden. Well of course they love the lantana and butterfly bushes too. And did I mention they like my Monrovia Winchester honeysuckle?

Furr Balls plant

Asclepias are the milkweeds. I’m fortunate enough to be growing a variety called Furr Balls from the Kew Society through Thompson and Morgan seeds. I did a previous post on them HERE. You can get purchase information from that post.

There is a wonderful article by Barbara Schuster on the Flower Essence Society site. Barbara studies the Asclepias syriaca and gives excellent insight to the characteristics the Milkweeds. The white milk from the plant has plenty of medicinal uses. See Barbara’s medicinal and nutritional uses and how it can cure warts! I’ve never seen a plant with so many different beneficial uses.

The milk can induce vomiting. Birds who eat Monarch butterflies that have dined on Milkweed—will vomit too. Human consumption is tricky. The indians used it for both good and killing purposes. They would poison their arrows with it and on a better note—mothers would use it to stimulate their flow of milk for nursing. The harvesting of the Milkweed juice and timing of that procedure is key to its many uses. Boiling it or manner of preparing it can also change its beneficial uses. So don’t go out and start drinking the stuff!

Milkweed pollination

Milkweeds have tricky pollination methods. The bees on my Monkey Balls don’t seem to notice that in their drunken nectar stupor they have been lifted of their pollen cargo.

When a bee buzzes up inside a flower—a flower part( called pollina) attaches and takes hold of pollen pods located on the bees legs. It steals it from the bee. The pollina will eventually get trapped in the anther–and wa la—you have fertilization!

I am 5’4″ tall so I’m guessing my reach is 6’4″ or more. These were suppose to only be 48″ tall. Ha!

Furr Balls plant

Carolus Linnaeus named the plant after the Greek god of healing–Asclepius.

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Terri says:

    I’m in NC on the coast. I have found a plant we call monkey balls, but they are “air potatoes” . They are large like golf balls or some as big as baseballs. They grown on a vine with heart shaped leaves. They are to Florida like Kudzu is to NC.


  2. Benjamin says:

    Glad you posted onthis one! I’ve been thinking about getting it, and boy is it big!
    Benjamin! you’ll have a blast writing about this one.


  3. atiredwife says:

    The butterfly picture is my new desktop photo (thank you very much) and I need that plant! Awesome!
    Awww—thank you! You can buy the seed from Botanical Interest Seeds. It’s big–about 7feet tall.


  4. Janet says:

    That is a really tall plant, isn’t it fun when the plants don’t read the book as to how tall they are supposed to be?
    Darndest thing I’ve every experienced. I have some in the front garden but they are still going through puberty.


  5. Phillip says:

    An amazing plant. I just entered a giveaway for seeds. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
    Got my fingers crossed for you! I was going to go to Target today and look for the hummingbird feeder that you posted about—but my youngest still has my car. I don’t mind how long he keeps the car cause I’m so thankful he survived the car wreck.


  6. Catherine says:

    That is an amazing plant. I’ve never seen one like that before, and have to admit the post title made me curious as to what I would see here 🙂 I wish the Monarchs made it out this way, but they don’t. How neat to be part of the count.
    You never know what you’ll see here but I promised my readers I’d keep it G rated. I didn’t come up with the name so I think it’s ok. I don’t think I’ve ever seen what monkey private parts look like.

    I’ve gotten some interesting spam from this post.


  7. Les says:

    What a cool plant. It would be worth having just to say its name when curious passers-by ask what it is.
    Well–I can tell you that it brings a lot of attention. We use it as a conversation piece and my oldest son—who has never planted a thing—says he’s going to put one in his yard. He’s so proud of momma.


  8. Those are amazing plants! The butterfly garden at the US Botanic Garden in Washington, DC has a mass planting! Invokes lots of conversation and discussion when people see the globes!

    PS I’m giving away some of my hand-collected asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) seeds to five readers through a drawing this week.
    I signed up!!! I want some! Course I could sneak over there one night and you’d never know. I would blame the deer.


  9. Charlotte says:

    More glorious pictures and what an amazing plant!
    Down right bodacious isn’t it?


  10. Great shots! I too am intrigues by this plant…very interesting
    Just imagine if it sets seed all over the neighborhood??? Will I be blamed? Congratulated?


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