About this blog

This blog is my homework assignments for my herbal course Thirteen Moons Kitchen Herbcraft. My teacher is Herbalist Claire MacKay and her website is Herbal Heritage Scotland.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Asclepiadaceae – Meet the Milkweed Family

I have a serious love for milkweed. Gorgeous flowers and plants that can withstand about anything our crazy weather can dish out in a season. I am frequently found with my face right in a common milkweed flower head or in the flowers of honeyvine. They smell that darn good. And pleurisy root, don’t get me started on how darn pretty they are. I am not the only one who likes them though, butterflies adore Milkweed. The Monarch Butterfly depends on Milkweed for it’s very survival.. the female Monarch lays her eggs on Milkweed’s and then the larvae consume the leaves. The adults feed on her nectar. Read more about these gorgeous butterflies and their dependency on Milkweed at this site. This photo is from the Monarch Butterfly Site also.

The Milkweeds key words would be plants with opposite (sometimes whorled) leaves, acrid milky juice and big pods with irregular crown like flowers. They are perennial shrubs, herbs and rarely trees.  The flowers are usually grouped in clusters, and are bisexual and regular. They have 5 separate sepals and 5 united petals, plus in some species a corona that looks like an extra set of petals. The corona faces the center of the flower and is made up of 5 hood like forms. Inside the corona are 5 stems fused to the ovary, which is positioned superior. It has 2 mostly separated carpels. Each carpel matures as a separate follicle, which is a pod like fruit with a seam down one side.
In the fall, the grandchildren and I look for the split open pods and release what seeds are left into the wind and use the dried pods to make crafts:) Common milkweed immature pods are delicious too! Just make sure and save some so they seed more plants:) Even the silk is edible, read about it in the article by Samuel Thayer .
milkweed pod                                                (from WikiMedia Commons)

-common milkweed                         (Common Milkweed from WikiMedia Commons)
Common Milkweed, Asclepia syriace grows up to 5 foot tall, has a stout stem, large leaves, and large flower cluster. (Did I mention it smells like heaven?) Unbranched set with fine hairs and milky sap. Found in pastures, old fields, prairie and roadsides, common everywhere around here. I deliberately grown them in the garden. Native American Indians used a root tea as a diuretic and laxative. the milky latex sap can be applied to warts, and ringworm. The early American physicians used it for treating asthma and rheumatism. I have already mentioned about the edible parts and the butterflies :)
butterfly weed
Butterfly Weed or Pleurisy Root, Asclepias tuberosa . Several stems might arise from a common base giving it a bushy appearance. Up to 2 1/2 foot tall. They lack the milky latex say common to this family. Fond in prairies, dry open woods, roadside, old fields and are common around here. I grow them in the garden.  Called Pleurisy Root because it is wonderful for treating pleurisy. I can sure vouch for that as my husband is prone to it and this fixes him right up. I use this plant a lot in formulas for lung and cough complaints. Don’t use large doses as it can be emetic. Native Americans revered this plant as a healer. the mashed the roots to use externally on bruises, swelling, and wounds. The leaves were used to induce vomiting and the roots for treating dysentery, diarrhea, constipation, lung infections, rheumatism, fever, and pneumonia. Another monarch plant too!
honeyvine                                   ( Honeyvine courtesy WikiMedia Commons)
Honeyvine -Cynanchum laeve is considered a noxious vine in most places.. I can’t help it, I love this plant. Yes, it does smell like honey and that smell delicately scents the wind when it is in bloom.. drawing in me as well as butterflies and bees .. Yes, it is a nuisance to have to go and pull her down off of my Joe Pye Weed, Elder trees, and my Common Milkweeds, plus all the other tallish plants in the gardens, but in my opinion, it’s worth it:) It grows in most any disturbed place.. so it is EVERYWHERE!!! Another case where if a species is successful, well it is considered a nuisance because of its abundance, I guess… I know of no medicinal uses or edible parts.. it is enough it is a Monarch host plant, other butterflies and bees love it.. and I do too. Long rather heart shaped leaves will help distinguish it from bindweed, morning glories and other vines, as well as its small  flowers that smell like…. honey! 

This blog post is for module 1 exercise 2
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit

resources used:
Thomas Epel’s Botany in a Day
Don Kurz’s Illinois Wildflowers

1 comment:

  1. I love using herbal products and this is the first time that I heard about Milkweed. Thank you very much for sharing this amazing information. Another knowledge I learned today.

    By the way, I also have a blog called Kratom Valley. I just thought that you might want to also visit it at http://www.kratomvalley.com