Milkweed is a plant North America, and can commonly be found across the United States and southern Canada. Milkweed can also be found on the grounds of Solel congregation in Ontario, Canada. Milkweed is a host plant for monarch caterpillars, so they are critical to monarchs’ life cycle. Loss of milkweeds plants is believed to have significantly impact monarch population. However, there is a seed shortage in the United States.
- Colors of milkweed flowers can be white, yellow, purple, green, pink, orange, and red.
- The corona of the flower has 5 hoods storing nectar, and 5 petals that are bent backwards.
- Milkweed pods show seeds and floss. The size of pods can vary. Once they are matured, the pods split length wise and release seeds. The seeds are light and fluffy.
- When injured, milkweed secretes milky sap. If you want to be sure you have milkweed, tear a leaf and see if this sap is secreted.
- Leaves are pointed and long, not toothed.
- The habitat of milkweed can vary greatly, depending on the species.
- Butterfly milkweed has orange and yellow flowers. The leaves alternate on the stem. The leaves are 5–10cm long. The habitat is rocky and dry sites. They do not tolerate shade.
- Swamp milkweed has pink or red flowers. The stems are hairy and the leaves are long, up to 17cm long (alternating sides). The habitat is the wetlands. Swamp milkweed can be found streams, rivers, and lakes.
- Common milkweed has underground stems, and thicker/broader leaves. The broader leaves have furry undersides. The flowers are pale pink and violet. The habitat is dry soil, and sunny sites.
- Showy milkweed has harry stems, and longer pink corona hoods. The flowers are shaped similar to stars. The leaves are opposite, long, and smooth (not hairy). The habitat is well drained soil, and sunny roadsides or pastures.
Milkweed has various uses beyond medical and edible uses. It is actually recommended to not consume milkweed unprepared, as it can be toxic. Here are various uses for the plant.
- Fibers of milkweed have been found in prehistoric textiles. The fibers from milkweed silk and seeds have been used to spin string and rope. This could be used to make course cloth. Milkweed fibers were also mixed with Indian hemp fibers.
- Milkweed in it’s immature stage was boiled (flower buds and young shoots) to be eaten as vegetables by indigenous groups in North America.
- Butterfly milkweed is the species that has a history of medicinal uses. The Omaha and Poncas used butterfly milkweed medicinally. The root would be chewed and placed on wounds. It was also dried, pulverized, and blown into wounds. It was also used as an inducer for vomiting.
- Milkweed could generally be used for swelling as a salve, regardless of species.
- Milkweed tea would be drunk by mothers to produce milk.
- It was also used to expel tapeworms from the body.
- It was also believed chewed milkweed could cure snakebite.
- Milkweed poisoning from consumption can cause inability to walk, spasms, coma, and more. So it is recommended you do not consume it in the wild. It also toxic to livestock.
- If you wish to draw monarch butterflies to your garden by planting milkweed, it is best to use seed and rhizome cuttings.
Myth ( Native & Greek)
- Milkweed is believed to be indicative of transformational change. Milkweed has been used in spiritual practices to initiate change within the self.
- Milkweed flowers have been used in homes and at altars, as they are believed to have healing and protective properties.
- Milkweed is also associated with the cycle of life due to the monarch’s transformation. Because of this milkweed flowers have been used in celebrations of life and death.
- In Greek mythology milkweed flowers would appear with the goddess of love to represent how love can transform an individual.