Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
 
 

Common milkweed belongs to the Milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae).  These plants are mostly unbranched, finely hairy with stems 3 to 4 feet tall, but can grow up to 6 feet tall. 

Common milkweed is abundant in open disturbed areas, including fields, upland pastures, roadsides, planted fields, as well as occasionally in prairies, especially degraded prairies.

The stems have a white, milky sap.  Leaves are large (up to 8 inches long and 4 1/2 inches wide), mostly opposite, are thick, oval, and short-stalked.  Leaves usually have pinkish veins.  Flowers occur in rounded clusters of 25 to 140 at the tops of the stems or on stalks arising from where the upper leaves join the main stem.  Flowers are pinkish purple about 1/4 inch wide with 5 purplish, reflexed petals surrounding 5 spreading, pinkish purple hoods, each with a tiny, pointed horn arising from it.

Fruits of the Common milkweed are 2 to 4 inch long, fat pods covered with many tiny projections and filled with fluffy seeds.

Native Americans used milkweeds for medicine and used sugar from the flowers.  Later, the fluffy seed hairs were used to stuff life jackets.



Additional information about this plant may be found at the USDA PLANTS Database:

http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch?keywordquery=common+milkweed&mode=comname

Milkweed in June

Milkweed in July

Milkweed in August

Milkweed in June

Milkweed in July

Milkweed in August

Milkweed in August

Milkweed pods in October

Milkweed pods in October