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Showy Milkweed
Asclepiadaceae
Asclepias speciosa


Thunder
Thunder
Type Categories Useful Parts

Herb




Asclepiadaceae Family

Asclepias Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Showy Milkweed, Greek Milkweed, Common MIlkweed


Location

Native to Western North America. The plant occurs from California to British Colombia and Central Canada south to Texas.

Physical Description
Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is a hairy perennial with stems ascending to erect. The leaves are opposite, persistent, with short petioles, elliptic to ovate blades, and bases rarely cordate and clasping. The corolla is reflexed and rose-purple; the hoods are elevated above the corolla in pink, aging yellow. Horns are exerted beyond the hoods.



General Information

People have used milkweed for fiber, food, and medicine all over the United States and southern Canada. 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. Pueblo people ate green milkweed pods and uncooked roots from one of the species that forms fleshy tubers underground

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.

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

Milkweed stems were collected after the stalks dried in late fall early winter. The dried stalks were split open to release the fibers; milkweed fibers were sometimes mixed with fibers of Indian-hemp (Apocynum cannabinum). The bark is removed and the fibers released by first rubbing between the hands and then drawing the fibers over a hard surface. Twisting the fiber opposite each other and twining them together formed the cord; often this was accomplished by rolling the fibers on the thigh while twisting them together.

Vast quantities of fiber plants are required for the making of nets, regalia, and cordage by California Indians. Blackburn and Anderson (1993) quote Craig Bates of the Yosemite Museum that it takes approximately five stalks of milkweed or Indian hemp to manufacture one foot of cordage. A Sierra Miwok feather skirt or cape contain about 100 feet of cordage made from approximately 500 plant stalks, while a deer net 40 feet in length contained some 7,000 feet of cordage, which would have required the harvesting of a staggering 35,000 plant stalks, (Barrett and Gifford 1933:178).

Due to the presence of cardiac glycosides this plant is poisonous if eaten in large quantities. The signs of poisoning are Vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms



Showy Milkweed




Showy Milkweed




Showy Milkweed


Comment: Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa

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