Heading
Homepage Search User Guide Glossary References Other Field Guides


Asclepias syriaca

Common Milkweed

Family Asclepiadaceae


Use
Cooked vegetable, cooked green, fritters. The young shoots should be boiled on
high heat with three changes of boiling water for a vegetable similar to asparagus.
IMPORTANT NOTE: THE MILKY SAP IS BITTER AND MILDLY TOXIC.
THESE CAN EASILY BE DISPELLED BY USING CHANGES OF BOILING WATER.
IF COLD WATER IS USED, THE BITTER TASTE WILL BE FIXED. The young
leaves, young pods, and unopened flowerbuds can be prepared with the same
treatment for vegetables similar to spinach, okra, and broccoli. Also, the
young
flowers can be boiled for 1min, battered, and then fried to make fritters.


Description

Growth Form: Herbaceous plant, 0.9-1.5m (3-5ft) tall

Leaves: 10-20cm (4-8in) long, opposite, broadly ovate, with pointed tip. Short petiole. Densely hairy below, sometimes sparsely hairy above.

Partly eaten milkweed leaf, with monarch caterpillar (Hannah Ramer. Peru, MA)
Partly eaten milkweed leaf, with monarch caterpillar

Single flower (Dan Perlman)
Single flower,
(c) Dan L. Perlman/EcoLibrary.org

Flowers: Small, greenish to purplish to whitish, in somewhat drooping inflorescence, May-August.

Pods: Pointed, light yellow-green, warty surface, splits to release small round seeds covered with soft hairs.

Stems: Hairy, usually single. Exudes a milky fluid when broken.

Habitat and Range

Dry soils and open habitat, such as fields and roadsides, and from southern Canada south to Kansas and Georgia.

Season

Shoots and leaves should be harvested in the spring; buds, flowers and pods in summer.

Fun Facts

Monarch butterflies are specific to milkweed plants; it is the only plant on which they will lay their eggs, and the only plant that the caterpillars eat. Chemicals from the plant make their flesh bitter and possibly toxic to most potential predators.

Pod and leaves (Aysu Urgur. Peru, MA)
Pod and leaves,
Aysu Urgur

Homepage Search User Guide Glossary References Other Field Guides