Monarch butterfly

About Balloon Milkweed

The balloon milkweed, commonly called the balloon plant, is a species of milkweed that can grow to be more than six feet tall. Like many species of milkweed, the balloon plant produces a milky white latex that is mildly poisonous if ingested.

In the mid to late summer, balloon plants sprout clusters of waxy white and purple flowers which smell faintly like vanilla. These flowers are not particularly beautiful, but they are attractive to butterflies. Despite frequent butterfly visits, the only insects able to pollinate the balloon plant are vespid wasps and hornets.

Once pollinated, flowers are followed by pale green, inflated fruits covered with soft hair-like spines. This balloon-like fruit may swell to up to three inches in diameter before splitting open to release its seeds.

Common Names
  • Balloon Plant
  • Balloon Cotton-Bush
  • Balloon Milkweed
  • Elephant Balls
  • Hairy Balls
  • Monkey Balls
  • Swan Plant

Balloon Milkweed at the Akron Zoo

You can find balloon milkweed in our Lehner Family Zoo Gardens.