The Pods... Milkweed (For NellyBly)

by Art Bee August. 06, 2010 5174 views

Milkweed can grow up to five feet high, with a sturdy round stem and opposite leaves. The broad, simple leaves are up to six inches long, pointed, and slightly downy, with a reddish stripe along the midrib. All parts of the plant exude a thick, sticky white sap that gives milkweed its name.

The flowers appear in early summer, tennis-ball-sized clusters of pink (or occasionally cream-colored) five-pointed stars, exuding a heady perfume. They are followed by clusters of light green, paisley-shaped pods, sometimes bumpy or fuzzy, that turn brown in the autumn when the seeds are ripe.

The pods are delicious when properly cooked, and the flowers are also edible. Some people eat the leaves and young shoots, but they are not recommended, as the young plants look almost identical to the highly poisonous dogbane, which often grows in the same places and even shares the milky sap. As the plants grow, their appearances diverge; the flowers and pods of the two species look completely different.

Milkweed is somewhat toxic and must be treated by boiling to make it safe to eat. The flowers, being mildest, only need a brief cooking, and may be dropped in boiling water for one minute before adding to salads or other dishes. Pods require two or three changes of boiling water, which is not as much work as it sounds like, and the uniquely delectable result is well worth the effort.

For you Sara…… asked for it!…….hahaha

Gorgeous, fragrant flowers, edible pods, food and habitat for monarch butterfly and other insects, a source of material for string: the virtues of milkweed go on and on.

Butterflies, especially monarchs, thrive on the flowers. Later the black and orange monarchs lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves, and in late summer, you may find the black-and-yellow striped caterpillars feeding on the leaves, or a green chrysalis with a shiny gold stripe from which the mature butterfly will emerge after metamorphosis.

Honeybees and hummingbirds also consume milkweed nectar, and a variety of beetles and ants can be found among the leaves and flowers. A patch of milkweed can provide fascinating views of insect wildlife

Most people are familiar with the pods of silky milkweed fluff that break open in fall to bear the seeds across the land. Less known are the globes of dusty pink flowers, which are edible when cooked, as are the immature pods.

The inner bark of the stalks may be used to make string, also known as cordage. The drying stalks should be harvested in autumn, when they are turning from green to brown.

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There are 7 comments , add yours!
Tom Thompson 10 years, 3 months ago

Wonderful set and good reportage

10 years, 3 months ago Edited
Brenda Nelson 10 years, 3 months ago

If I've ever seen this, I didn't know what it was. Isn't milkweed a big allergen? Glad the b'flies like it. The images are excellent and the information is very interesting. Thanks, AB, for the lesson - and for liking my "rusty" post!)

10 years, 3 months ago Edited
Ines 10 years, 3 months ago

so much imformation and such a beautiful plant!!! thanks for sharing :)

10 years, 3 months ago Edited
Oscar 10 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for the information...lovely set!! :)

10 years, 3 months ago Edited
Finbarr 10 years, 3 months ago

WOW ! never seen this plant before ,

10 years, 3 months ago Edited
Ricardo 10 years, 3 months ago

i've never seen these in my life!
I loved them
i'd love to have some in my garden, they are cute!^^
by the way, i'm with ruth, i'd like to see pics of the monarch caterpillars and stuff :)

10 years, 3 months ago Edited
Sara G 10 years, 3 months ago

Thank you so much! I've never seen this or knew of all the great things about it! I definitely want to get some.. :-)

10 years, 3 months ago Edited