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common name for members of the Asclepiadaceae, a family of mostly perennial herbs and shrubs characterized by milky sap, a tuft of silky hairs attached to the seed (for wind distribution), and (usually) a climbing habit. Forms of this primarily tropical family are especially abundant in South America and in Africa, where many are succulents. Only a few genera are temperate; those species native to the United States are mostly of the genus Asclepias, the milkweeds, or silkweeds. The common milkweed, a plentiful roadside and field plant of the eastern and central states, is A. syriaca. A number of western species are poisonous to livestock, especially sheep. The milkweeds have been utilized as food (particularly the young shoots and buds), masticatory, medicament, and fiber. Some species yield an excellent bast fiber, like flax, but are difficult to cultivate and refine. The readily obtainable seed hairs from wild plants were sometimes used as a rather inferior substitute for kapok. Several species have been examined as potential sources of natural rubber; Palay rubber comes from a species of Crypostegia native to Madagascar. Among the milkweeds grown as ornamentals, the showy-blossomed butterfly weed or pleurisy root (A. tuberosa), native to the United States, was eaten by the Native Americans for lung and throat ailments. Hoya is an Old World genus that includes the wax plant (H. carnosa), a tropical climbing shrub cultivated as a pot plant for its fleshy leaves and fragrant waxy flowers. The milkweed family is classified in the division MagnoliophytaMagnoliophyta
, division of the plant kingdom consisting of those organisms commonly called the flowering plants, or angiosperms. The angiosperms have leaves, stems, and roots, and vascular, or conducting, tissue (xylem and phloem).
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, class Magnoliopsida, order Gentianales.
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CAREFUL Pink-purple flowers in clusters that sometimes droop.When it comes up in the springtime, you can use the young shoots and leaves just like asparagus. The white sap in the stem is a bitter latex that can be applied to warts, moles, ringworm, skin cancer and poison ivy rash. Young shoots, leaves and small young pods can be used as a vegetable (not the bigger older ones with all the fluffy stuff inside) if boiled and water replaced. Get rid of white latex by putting in water. Not poisonous in low doses, but the white sap latex is better used externally. Only eat the pods when young and seeds are white. The seeds become poisonous when they mature and start turning brown. Cooking makes milkweed safer to eat. Root tea used for kidney stones, asthma and expectorant to clear mucus. Know what you are doingsome milkweeds are poisonous. If not totally sure, don’t consume.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



swallowwort (Asclepias), a genus of mainly herbaceous plants of the family Asclepiadaceae. There are over 100 species in America and several in Africa. The best known is the Syrian milkweed, or Aescupapius’ herb (A. syriaca), a perennial native to America. It is cultivated and readily becomes wild. In the USSR the milkweed that has grown wild is found in the Baltic areas, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus.

Milkweed is a tall plant (up to 2 m) with compact, for the most part elongated-elliptical, leaves. Its lilac reddish, small, fragrant flowers are gathered into umbellate inflorescences. Fruit grows in the form of follicles. White, silky floss on the seeds facilitates their distribution by wind. The milky sap contains tar and rubber components; the seeds contain more than 20 percent semisiccative oils, suitable for technical purposes. A sturdy fiber is obtained from the stalk for manufacture of coarse fabrics and ropes. Syrian milkweed is a drought-resistant, nectariferous plant, unfastidious in cultivation. This species and other species of milkweed are sometimes grown as decorative plants.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Any of several latex-secreting plants of the genus Asclepias in the family Asclepiadaceae.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
3.--Mean number of flowering stems by age class for Asclepias viridis plants excavated from grassland and roads
Additionally, three species, e.g., Asclepias exaltata, Gentianella quinquefolia, and Silphium integrifolium, which were not found during the current study but had been documented previously with photography, are included in the list.
Como el tzitzicton en 27v, creemos que esta es otra especie del genero Asclepias. Lo que ha sido interpretado como flores de disco rojas al centro de las cabezuelas de una compuesta probablemente representa las yemas florales rojizas de una apocinacea.
Flower-visitors, nectar production, and inflorescence size of Asclepias syriaca.
Success: Fei Liu has made pieces for celebrities such as actress Ziyi Zhang, left, who is wearing the large Asclepias earring as a headpiece.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants grace fields and roadsides across New York State.
Females lay 500-700 eggs on the underside of leaves of milkweeds (family Asclepidaceae: Asclepias spp.).
Harry-O'kuru is experimenting with new, value-added uses derived from unsaturated oil in the seed of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is commonly found growing wild and requires a natural, moist setting.
and Mexico; Mead's milkweed (Asclepias meadii), a prairie plant of the central Midwest; and the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), a reef-building species of the Caribbean.
Atriplex canescens (Pursch), Arabis divercarpa Nels., Cymopterus terebinthinus (Hook.), Asclepias speciosus Torr., and Cirsium arvense (L.) were all documented as LFP's for single species of butterflies.