Common Milkweed

Asclepias syriaca

Family Asclepiadaceae

Notable Features
Leaves: Alternate*, ovate* leaves covered in a soft, gray, downy hair. When broken, a white, milky sap seeps out.
Stems: Stems are a green-gray, with a uniform covering of a downy, gray hair. Like the leaves, a milky, white sap oozes out once the surface is broken open.
Flowers/ Fruit: Large clusters of dull purple-pink, sometimes greenish or whitish flowers appear and hang from the plant June through August. Flowers give way to bumpy, pointed-tipped seedpods, which are green or gray, and contain hundreds of flattened, brown, oval seeds. The seeds are attached to downy fibers, which will help disperse the seeds.

Size/Shape: A medium-sized, waste-area, dry soil, and field plant growing no more than 5 feet (1½ meters) in height.

Location on Campus

(click for map)

Milkweed grows along the fencerow between the southeast side of the athletic fields and the railroad tracks.

The young shoots (up to 6 inches or 15 centimeters), young top leaves, unopened flowerheads, and unopened seedpods of the milkweed can all be eaten as asparagus, cooked greens, and vegetables, respectively. They must be boiled thoroughly so that the sour, somewhat toxic, milky sap disappears. The greens should be boiled for about 15 minutes through several changes of water, with the first changes of water lasting no more than a minute in length each. The flowerheads can be eaten as fritters after they have been submerged in boiling water for 1 minute, dipped in batter, then fried.

Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.