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[[{{{domain}}}]] > [[{{{superregnum}}}]] > Plantae > [[{{{subregnum}}}]] > [[{{{superdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{superphylum}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{phylum}}}]] > [[{{{subdivisio}}}]] > [[{{{subphylum}}}]] > [[{{{infraphylum}}}]] > [[{{{microphylum}}}]] > [[{{{nanophylum}}}]] > [[{{{superclassis}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{subclassis}}}]] > [[{{{infraclassis}}}]] > [[{{{superordo}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{subordo}}}]] > [[{{{infraordo}}}]] > [[{{{superfamilia}}}]] > [[]] > [[{{{subfamilia}}}]] > [[{{{supertribus}}}]] > [[{{{tribus}}}]] > [[{{{subtribus}}}]] > [[{{{genus}}}]] {{{subgenus}}} {{{sectio}}} {{{series}}} {{{species}}} {{{subspecies}}} var. {{{cultivar}}}

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Asclepiadaceae (from the genus Asclepias, dedicated to Aesculapius). Milkweed Family. Fig. 50. Herbs or shrubs, sometimes fleshy, often climbing, generally with milky juice: leaves opposite, rarely otherwise, exstipulate: flowers bisexual, regular, very frequently in umbels; calyx 5-parted, imbricated; corolla 5-parted or -lobed, gamopetalous, hypogynous; a crown present, which is either an outgrowth of the corolla, or of the stamens or of both; stamens 5, mostly hypogynous, alternating with the lobes of the corolla, usually monadelphous, sometimes united with the styles; pollen usually agglutinated into pollinia, which are attached to glandular appendages of the stigma; disk absent; ovaries 2, superior, each 1-celled, many-seeded; styles 2; stigmas united: fruit of two follicles; seeds usually comose.

There are 217 genera and about 1,900 species, principally of the tropics, but many reach the temperate zone. The family is distinct, and closely related only to the Apocynaceae. The Asclepiadaceae is one of the most extraordinary of families. Most species have a milky juice. Many in South Africa are fleshy, cactus-like plants. Some are epiphytes with variously modified foliage. One genus of epiphytes bears foliar pitchers that catch and hold rain-water. Some species are like a bundle of leafless whip-lashes; others have remarkable tuberous bases to store water. The floral crown is most diverse; and the details of insect-pollination, especially the behavior of the pollinia, is very complicated. The union of the two carpels by the stigma only is unique.

Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa) was formerly used extensively for lung and catarrhal disorders. Condurango, from the bark of Marsdenia Condurango, is a stomach tonic. The milky juice of many is medicinal; some are emetics (Vincetoxicum, Gomphocarpus, Secamone); others are purgative (Solenostemma, Cynanchum); others are sudorifics (Hemidesmus). The acrid juice of Gonolobus is used to poison arrows; that of Periploca to poison wolves, hence the name wolfbane and dogbane. The milk of Gymnema lactiferum, the cow-plant of Ceylon, is edible; also that of the Cape, Oxystelma esculentum. Some Indian species yield good bast fibers. Marsdenia tinctoria yields a dye. Several species yield caoutchouc. The oschur or modar (Calotropis procera) is probably the sodom apple of the Bible. The herbage of several species is cooked and eaten. The acid stem of Sarcostemma is eaten as a salad. In East Africa, Cynanchum sarcostemmoides is used to poison fish. Many Asclepiadaceae are ornamental plants.

About 20 genera are in cultivation, in N. America, mostly in the tropical horticulture of Florida and California. More generally cultivated and better known are: Asclepias (Milkweed); Cynanchum (Mosquito Plant, Cruel Plant); Hoya (Wax-plant); and Periploca (Silk Vine).


The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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