Milkweed. The weed everyone picks out of their gardens. I did, too, until I learned more about them. This is an amazing plant with so many uses its a wonder its not illegal to pull them up. Check out these facts.
1. “In World War II, schoolchildren across the Midwest collected thousands of pounds of milkweed fluff to stuff life preservers for the armed forces in the Pacific, because kapok, the normal material used for this purpose, came from Japanese-occupied Indonesia and was unavailable. Milkweed floss is 6-8 times more buoyant than cork. A single pound can keep a 100-150 pound man afloat for hours.”
2. Milkweed stalks also produce a coarse, sisal-like fiber that can be used for twine. “The plant has also 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 1890s and 1940s found that Milkweed has more potential for commercial processing than any other indigenous 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 for cordage and textiles.”
3. It is the only food that a Monarch Butterfly’s caterpillar will eat. Without milkweed…no Monarchs!
“A female monarch lays its eggs (1) on a sprouted milkweed plant. The eggs hatch in four to five days producing tiny yellow, black and white banded larvae (caterpillars). These caterpillars (2) will feed solely on milkweed and eat enormous quantities because they are growing fast.”
4. For those of you who are brave about such things… “It provides edible shoots (like asparagus), flower bud clusters (like broccoli), and immature pods (like okra). The soft silk inside the immature pods is a unique food, and the flowers are also edible. Milkweed conveniently provides one or more edible parts from late spring until late summer, making it one of the most useful wild greens to learn.”
However, and I add this as a disclaimer. There are proper ways to use this plant and improper ways. There are small amounts of toxins in the plant, as there are in most things, but to use it safely, do your research. (I am not responsible for anyone getting sick from eating Milkweed).
5. “Honey bee’s take nectar from milkweed flowers. With the decline of honey bee populations in the US, planting milkweed in your garden can help to provide feeding stations as they fly between crop fields and orchards.”
6. “Hummingbirds often use the floss from milkweed seed pods to line their nests.”
7. For you spinners…it has been said that the floss from the plant, soft and silken, can in fact be spun into a usuable fiber.
8. The milky substance that you see when you cut/break the stem is actually a latex.
9. “Milkweed floss, when mixed with goose down, traps and suppresses dust and dander than can cause allergic reactions in some people. Down comforters containing a mix of goose down and milkweed floss are now commonly sold as a hypoallergenic alternative to pure down comforters.”
There was so much to learn. I was amazed. Of course, this plant is also invasive. I’ve decided that for this year, I’ll let it alone where it is, but I’m going to make a place for it in my yard where it can grow with abandon. I may be having to pull them out of the side garden where they are now for the next few years, but I don’t want to mess with them at this point. The butterfly eggs will soon be deposited on them, if they aren’t already, and I want to give them a chance. This picture is from my garden.
Credits for Info go to: (lest you think I am really this brilliant. lol.)