Common Milkweed

From - Plant Encyclopedia and Gardening wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Common Milkweed
Fossil range: {{{fossil_range}}}
Asclepias syriaca.jpg
Plant Info
Common name(s): {{{common_names}}}
Growth habit: {{{growth_habit}}}
Height: {{{high}}}
Width: {{{wide}}}
Lifespan: {{{lifespan}}}
Exposure: {{{exposure}}}
Water: {{{water}}}
Features: {{{features}}}
Poisonous: {{{poisonous}}}
Hardiness: {{{hardiness}}}
USDA Zones: {{{usda_zones}}}
Sunset Zones: {{{sunset_zones}}}
Scientific classification
Domain: {{{domain}}}
Superkingdom: {{{superregnum}}}
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: {{{subregnum}}}
Superdivision: {{{superdivisio}}}
Superphylum: {{{superphylum}}}
Division: Magnoliophyta
Phylum: {{{phylum}}}
Subdivision: {{{subdivisio}}}
Subphylum: {{{subphylum}}}
Infraphylum: {{{infraphylum}}}
Microphylum: {{{microphylum}}}
Nanophylum: {{{nanophylum}}}
Superclass: {{{superclassis}}}
Class: Magnoliopsida
Sublass: {{{subclassis}}}
Infraclass: {{{infraclassis}}}
Superorder: {{{superordo}}}
Order: Gentianales
Suborder: {{{subordo}}}
Infraorder: {{{infraordo}}}
Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Supertribe: {{{supertribus}}}
Tribe: {{{tribus}}}
Subtribe: {{{subtribus}}}
Genus: Asclepias
Subgenus: {{{subgenus}}}
Section: {{{sectio}}}
Series: {{{series}}}
Species: A. syriaca
Subspecies: {{{subspecies}}}
Binomial name
Asclepias syriaca
Trinomial name
Type Species

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a species of milkweed, native to most of North America east of the Rockies, with the exception of the drier parts of the Prairies. It grows in sandy soils and appreciates lots of sunlight. It was one of the earliest North American species described in Cornut's 1635 Canadensium plantarum historia. The specific epithet was reused by Linnaeus due to Cornut's confusion with a species from Asia Minor.

Close-up of flowers

Common milkweed is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from a rhizome to 1-2 m tall. The stem is very hairy, and all parts of the plants produce a white latex when broken. The leaves are opposite, simple broad ovate-lanceolate, 7-25 cm long and 3-12 cm broad, usually with an undulate margin and a red-colored main vein. They have a very short petiole and a velvety underside.

The flowers are grouped in several spherical umbels with numerous flowers in each umbel. The individual flowers are small, 1-2 cm diameter, perfumed, with five cornate hoods. The seeds are attached to long, white flossy hairs and encased in large follicles.


Seed pods
Seed pods gone to seed

The plant's latex contains large quantities of glycosides, making the leaves and pod bark toxic for sheep, and potentially humans (though large quantities of the foul-tasting parts would need to be eaten). However, the young shoots, young leaves, flower buds and fresh fruits are all edible. It is important not to confuse young shoots with those of the toxic Spreading Dogbane.

Failed attempts have been made to exploit rubber (from the latex) and fiber (from the seed's floss) production from the plant industrially. The floss was nonetheless used for stuffing. However, the plant has been explored for commercial use of its bast (inner bark) fiber which is both strong and soft. U.S. Department of Agriculture studies in the 1890's and 1940's found that Milkweed has more potential for comercial processing than any other indigineous bast fiber plant, with estimated yields as high as hemp and quality as good as flax. Both the bast fiber and the floss were used historically by Native Americans to weave fine fabrics.

The flowers often constitute small traps for insects who cannot take off again. Several insects live off the plant, including the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), the Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetraophtalmus), Small Milkweed Bug (Lygaeus kalmii) and Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis).

Deforestation due to European settlement may have expanded the range and density of milkweed. The plant can become invasive and often acts as a weed. It is naturalized in several areas outside of its native range, including Oregon and parts of Europe.



blog comments powered by Disqus
Personal tools
Bookmark and Share