What Is Milkweed Plant

What Is Milkweed Plant

What Is Milkweed Plant

Most milkweeds have milky juice, flowers with five united petals, podlike fruits, and, usually, tufted seeds. Male and female parts of each flower are united in a single structure, and the flowers are typically borne in clusters. The pollen is characteristically massed in bundles called pollinia, pairs of which are linked by a yokelike bar of tissue contributed by the stigma of the pistil. Parts of the pollinia stick to visiting insect pollinators, which then carry them to other flowers to facilitate cross-pollination. This method of pollination is complex, but, when successful, the great numbers of pollen grains transferred result in the production of many seeds. The silky-haired seeds are drawn out of their pods by the wind and are carried off.



Common milkweed is a member of the Asclepiadaceae (milkweed) family. It is one of about 115 species that occur in the Americas. Most species are tropical or arid land species. The genus name, Asclepias, commemorates Asklepios, the Greek god of medicine. Some of the milkweed species have a history of medicinal use including common milkweed (wart removal and lung diseases), and butterfly weed, A. tuberosa (also known as pleurisy root, used for pleurisy and other lung disease). The specific epithet, syriaca, means ‘of Syria’ in reference to Linnaeus's mistaken belief it was from Syria. It is a widespread and somewhat weedy species known from most of the eastern United States and the eastern most prairie states as well as southern Canada from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan. It is frequently found in fence rows, on roadsides, in fields, and in prairies and pastures. Given the opportunity, it will establish in gardens and even thin lawns. It is tolerant of light shade, but generally is a full sun species.

This milkweed grows to about 1.5 meters(5 feet) tall, usually occurring in clusters of stout stems. It has rhizomes and quickly forms colonies. Leaves are 15-20 centimeters (6-8 inches) long and 5-9 centimeters (2-3.6 inches) wide. They are somewhat thick with a prominent midrib beneath. The upper surface is light to dark green while the lower surface is lighter, almost white at times. Broken leaves and stems exude a milky latex. Flowers are borne in nearly spherical clusters (umbels) at the top of the plant, usually with 2-5 clusters per plant. Each flower is about 2 centimeters (0.75 inches) long and 1 centimeters (0.4 inches) wide. Flowers are greenish-pink to rosy pink to purplish-pink and very strongly and sweetly scented. Fruits (pods) are about 10 centimeters (4 inches) long, inflated and covered in little finger-like projections. They are green initially, turning brown as they mature. They split open revealing 50-100 seeds each with a white, fluffy coma ("parachute") that allows wind dispersal. (Source: www.fs.fed.us)



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