Common Milkweed
Asclepias syriaca
Family Asclepiadaceae

* Leaves opposite and paired, broad, leathery, with pointed tips, sometimes somewhat wavy, 5-7".
* Flowers subtly colored, with colors ranging from dusty rose to lavender to dull brownish-purple. In dome-like clusters.
* Seedpods pointed, gray-green, warty.
* Seeds flat, brown, 1/5", attached to soft down, clustered inside pod.
* Height: 3-5'.

Natural History:
* Flowers June - August.
* Habitat: Roadsides, meadows, dry soil.
* Range: Southern Canada south.
* Native.

* Butterflies, bees, and other insects feed on the nectar of milkweed.

* The genus was named after Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine. There are 2,850 species in the milkweed family.

* "During World War II a call went out from the government for milkweed pods. Boy and girl scouts, civic groups, farmers and collectors all over North America scoured the countryside for milkweeds, collected and dried the pods, and shipped them to central collecting stations... Milkweed floss is 5 or 6 times as buoyand as cork, and it was soon discovered that a life jacket containing a few pounds of this floss could hold up a 150-pound man in the sea. It is warmer than wool and 6 times lighter. Flying suits lined with milkweed floss are warm and light-weight, and, if an aviator falls into the ocean, the suit will act as a life preserver."
-Harold Moldenke, in American Wild Flowers, 1949

* In 1790, Italian voyager Luigi Castiglioni wrote that "...the mountaineers of Virginia made cloth from the outer covering of the stalks of this plant."

* During the 1860's, Salem, Massachusetts was a site for the milkweed industry. The silk was used to stuff pillows, cushions, and mattresses, and thread, purses, netting, and socks were made from various other parts of the plant.


Created by: Allaire Diamond and Jiasuey Hsu
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: July 31, 1998
Last Modified: November 21, 2008