Great Balls of Gomphocarpus

A few weeks ago, David and I tramped around Greenspring Gardens, and I found the plant below, which I described as a nice-looking weed in a previous post.

A nice weed, Greenspring Park Fall 2014

A nice weed, Greenspring Park Fall 2014

I have discovered more information.

Although considered an invasive weed in some locales, the plant is one of the Asclepias beloved by Butterflies.  It also make a nice cut flower.

Asclepia_physocarpa2.jpg from the National Botanican Garden

from the National Botanical Garden


Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

Asclepias Physocarpa: Gomphocarpus physocarpus, Goose plant, Giant swan milkweed, Hairy balls, Family jewels, Oscar, Cotton-bush, Balloon plant;

Probably a native of southeast Africa, Gomphocarpus is a wonderful butterfly plant. Its clusters of white flowers are insignificant but the light green balloon-like seed pods make it a great plant for a border. The pods pop open like our native milkweed spilling thousands of airborne seeds.

Gomphocarpus can be an aggressive self seeder in some locales, and some of them are poisonous, so care should be taken. It is most commonly sold as Asclepias physocarpus.

Gomphocarpus fruticosus fruit with fluff A. Naidoo PlantsZafricaGomphocarpus fruticosus fruiting plant Wursten

I am linking this post to the Nature notes meme (link in my blogroll). 

14 thoughts on “Great Balls of Gomphocarpus

    • Considered a shrub, as shown in the photo from Zimbabwe. Single stalk, but multiple stalks shown in the photo above rom the National Botanical Garden. My photo shows one growing at Greenspring Gardens. Balls are light with fluffy insides.


  1. Oh my, I hadn’t heard of this one. We dug out the butterfly bush this spring when I found it all over the yard and planted some butterfly weed which is an orange native milkweed instead… Michelle


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