Showy Milkweed

Botanical Name :Asclepias speciosa
Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Genus: Asclepias
Species: A. speciosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Common Names: Showy Milkweed, Greek Milkweed(don’t ask me) and Common Milkweed.

Habitat :It is native to the western half of North America.Showy milkweed is widespread  throughout the western states from Texas north to  British Columbia.

Description:
This flowering plant is a hairy, erect perennial. The large, pointed, bananalike leaves are arranged opposite on the stalklike stem. The eye-catching furry pale pink to pinkish-purple flowers are arranged in thick umbels. Their corollas are reflexed and the central flower parts, five hoods with prominent hooks, are star-shaped. The fruit is a large, rough follicle filled with many flat oval seeds with luxuriant silky plumes.
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Thriving in poor, dry , well-drained soil, it’s tough and vigorous with gorgeous large silvery-green, soft-to-the-touch leaves. Atop the 3′ to 4′ stems, the remarkably FRAGRANT large round clusters are 4″ to 5″ across and made up of lovely velvety pink and white star-like flowers. Bloom season occurs late Spring to late Summer.

Asclepias speciosa is a specific Monarch butterfly food and habitat plant.

Many Native American peoples use all parts of this plant for a great number of medicinal uses and ate some parts as a food.

Cultivation:
It needs sun. It is quite drought tolerant,(not in the same league though as Asclepias A. eriocarpa, erosa or californica ) plant, water well first summer and ignore. Tolerates alkaline soils and most gardens. Needs cross-pollination for fruit and seed development.

Pollen is self-incompatible alkaloids associated with this plant give the butterflies that feed on it protection. The alkaloids associated with this plant give the butterflies that feed on it protection.

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Propagation :
Reproduction occurs from seed, roots that spread horizontally and send up new shoots, and from severed pieces of root. Each plant can produce from hundreds to thousands of seeds. Growth nodes occur along the roots, and each node can produce a new plant. The silky, feathery exterior of the seed facilitates spread by both water and wind. The seed attachment also clogs screens of combines during harvest.

Chemical Constituents:
Three chemicals have proven effective on showy milkweed: 1) amitrole (Amizol-T); 2) picloram (Tordon); and 3) glyphosate (Roundup). 2,4-D can be mixed with the  picloram and  glyphosate.

Edible Uses:

The young shoots, stems, flower buds, immature fruits, and roots of showy milkweed were boiled and eaten as a vegetable by various indigenous groups of eastern and mid-western America.
In some areas the young leaves and stems were used as greens. The flowers were also eaten raw or boiled, and the buds were boiled for soup or with meat. The most common use for these plants, recorded among almost all the tribes throughout California, was to obtain a kind of chewing gum from the sap of Asclepias speciosa. The sticky white sap was heated slightly until it became solid, then added to salmon fat or deer grease.

Pueblo people ate green milkweed pods and uncooked roots from one of the species that forms fleshy tubers underground.

Medicinal Uses;
The sap of Asclepias speciosa was used as a cleansing and healing agent by some of the desert tribes for sores, cuts, and as a cure for warts and ringworm. The silky hairs were burned off the ripe seeds, which were then ground and made into a salve for sores. Seeds were boiled in a small amount of water and the liquid used to soak rattlesnake bites to draw out the poison. A hot tea made from the roots was given to bring out the rash in measles or as a cure for coughs. It was also employed as a wash to cure rheumatism. The mashed root, moistened with water, was used as a poultice to reduce swellings.


Other Uses:

Fibers from the stems of milkweed have been identified in prehistoric textiles in the Pueblo region. Tewa-speaking people of the Rio Grande still make string and rope from these fibers. At Zuni, the silky seed fibers are spun on a hand-held wooden spindle and made into yarn and woven into fabric, especially for dancers.

Known Hazards:
There are reports that it is increasing in abundance throughout parts of its range. Showy milkweed is a plant of concern because it can be toxic to sheep, cattle, horses and domestic fowl. It is most toxic during rapid growth, but retains its toxicity when dried in hay. Fast growth occurs when temperatures are warm and soil moisture is abundant.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asclepias_speciosa
http://www.anniesannuals.com/plt_lst/lists/general/lst.gen.asp?prodid=125
http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/asclepias-speciosa
http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2003/FS0360.pdf
http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_assp.pdf

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