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Asclepias syriaca L.
Synonym(s): Asclepias intermedia, Asclepias kansana, Asclepias syriaca var. kansana
USDA Symbol: assy
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
A tall, downy plant with slightly drooping purplish to pink flower clusters.
This plant differs from Showy Milkweed (A. speciosa) in having an unbranched stem. The plant contains cardiac glycosides, allied to digitalins used in treating some heart disease. These glycosides, when absorbed by monarch butterfly larvae whose sole source of food is milkweed foliage, make the larvae and adult butterflies toxic to birds and other predators.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Herb Flower:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Purple
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug
, WV Canada: MB
, SK Native Distribution:
Saskatchewan to New Brunswick; south to Georgia; west through Tennessee to Kansas and Iowa. Native Habitat:
Old fields, roadsides, and waste places.
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil Description: Loam, Sand
EDIBLE PARTS: Leaves, new shoots, flower
buds and firm seed pods. Gather leaves in early spring when they first open. Gather seed pods in summer. Parboil for three minutes, then discard bitter water and replace with clean boiling water. (Cold water tends to fix bitterness.) Repeat this process three times, then cook the leaves for 15 minutes before seasoning them. A pinch of soda can be added during cooking to break down the fiber and improve flavor.The young shoots under six inches long, found during the spring are used as a vegetable. Remove the fuzz on the shoot
by rubbing it off. Preparation is the same as for the leaves. Collect flower
buds and flowers during the summer. Dip buds in boiling water for one minute, batter and deep fry. When cooked like broccoli, buds are similar to okra. The flower
clusters may also be battered and fried. After cooking, buds, flowers and leaves can be frozen. Use like okra in soups. A bit of baking soda in the water will help break down the tough fibers in the seed pod. Parboiled for several minutes, the young pods may be slit, rolled in a cornmeal/flour mixture and fried or frozen for future use.
The name milkweed refers to the milky white sap,
which contains bitter chemicals to protect the plants from predators. A few insects are immune to these poisons and accumulate them in their bodies, protecting themselves from their own predators. Monarch butterflies cannot complete their life cycles without milkweed. (Kershaw) Warning:
POISONOUS PARTS: Milky sap
from leaves, stems. Toxic only in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, spasms by ingesting other species; need careful identification. Toxic Principle: Resinoid, cardiac glycoside in other species. (Poisonous Plants of N.C. State) Conspicuous Flowers:
Butterflies Larval Host:
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Native plants of dune erosion control in Michigan
May 30, 2008
We care for Lake Michigan dune near our home in New Buffalo and would like to provide erosion control with native species that will also enhance the beauty of the dune with long lasting flowers. The ...
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National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Record Last Modified: 2012-12-07
Research By: TWC Staff