“The butterfly is a flying flower, The flower a tethered butterfly.” 

-Ponce Denis Écouchard Le Brun

Zones: 3-9


Full sun to some shade

Wet clay soil to dry or rocky soil

Easy to germinate in the spring if planted in the autumn. To germinate, collect seeds in late summer or autumn, when they are dry then snip off the pods and slice lengthwise along the edge and scoop out seeds and fluff. Then to plant seeds dig a ¼ inch deep hole, place one seed in and cover with a loose layer of compost. Water every couple days and germination will occur in about 2 or 3 weeks with proper care.

Butterfly Weed is known for its bright orange flowers that attract butterflies, particularly the Monarch. This plant was used for many medicinal purposes by the Menomini, Omaha, Lakota, Dakota and Poncas tribes to cure illnesses from pulmonary ailments to lesions. To the First Nations peoples, the Butterfly Weed was valuable and versatile. The roots are used as a cure for pleurisy and pulmonary ailments. The fibers from the dry stems are used for building twine and the flowers can be crushed up and mixed with oils to put on bruises and cuts to promote quicker healing.

For the First Nations peoples, traditional medicine was often the responsibility of a select few. There is a Hopi Proverb,  “One finger cannot lift a pebble.”  It reminds us that working together towards a common purpose brings a higher quality of life for all. For many indigenous nations, the healer or Shaman’s single purpose was to cure illness often using plant medicines and rituals. These traditions were handed down through generations.

A tuberosa  produces a latex-based sap that contains toxic compounds called cardenolides. Milkweeds co-evolved with one of the earth’s most important pollinators- monarch butterflies- and the caterpillars have a unique adaptation to feed on a plant that many other insects cannot. Monarch caterpillars actually absorb these toxins making themselves toxic and undesirable to other predators. Milkweeds grow 1-3 feet tall in places where many plants cannot survive,making their single purpose critical to the survival of monarch butterflies and our shared ecosystem.

By taking this seed packet you agree to participate in the project by planting and documenting the plants success or failure. We ask you to send photos to


Visit SolitaryGardens.org/SOR for more information on the project.

“He said that we belonged together because he was born with a flower and I was born with a butterfly and that flowers and butterflies need each other for survival.” 

-Gemma Malley, The Declaration

The seed is the most cherished part of the plant. Seeds are travelers, progeny and potential. Seeds are built for survival over time and terrain. As a result, most of a plant’s energy is dedicated to making its seed.

This seed packet is part of a larger project, Solitary Garden’s Social Justice Seed Packets, an anti-oppression curriculum that allows us to engage with the history of mass incarceration and other social justice issues through the stories that plants inherently tell.

Through the act of gardening, we will demonstrate how ignoring the vitality of other beings impoverishes our own imaginations and collective well being. Unlearning systems of oppression, like growing a plant, requires daily attention and care. Love, hope, compassion, and social equity — like a garden — require nurturing in order to fully blossom. We hope this project begins to plant possibilities and water new ideas in order to collectively sow the world we wish to live in.

This edition of seed packets was compiled in collaboration with Professor Johanna Schuster-Craig’s Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities class (GSAH 201) and the assistance of Peter Carrington.

With the planting of a seed — literal or metaphorical — we set intentions for what we would like to grow. Think about your intentions for building a world through collaboration and co-liberation: 


These contemplative questions are meant to inspire challenging conversations and growth. As you nurture your plant, we encourage you to nurture these ideas. 

Butterfly Weed is bountiful to one species yet poisonous to most others. It’s single purpose is critical to the delicate balance of our ecosystem. Adam Smith suggests everyone should focus on perfecting their craft to better the community as a whole.

  • What special skill do you possess that could contribute to the greater good of humanity and the planet? 
  • Does your skill fit into the architecture of capitalism? 
  • Could it be considered toxic to systems of control, inequity, racism, sexism, heteropatriarchy and punishment?
  • How does this manifest in your life and how or what does it make you want to change?