The plant got its common name because of its attractiveness to a wide variety of butterflies such as monarchs, swallowtails, sulphurs, coppers, hairstreaks and fritillaries.
Another common name given this plant is
'pleurisy root', because the root has medicinal uses as an emetic and diuretic and was used to treat pleurisy.
Native Americans found many uses for butterfly milkweed. The plant's fibers were used in textiles and bowstrings, a red dye could be extracted for basket and textile decoration, and they had many medicinal uses for the roots.