Genus Asclepias
Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae)

Milkweed in Summer
    Along a Roadside

(Asclepias speciosa)

The milkweed plant is the main food source for the larvae of the Monarch butterfly. Feeding on the milky sap of the plant gives protection to the insects because it gives them a bitter taste, making them unpalatable to birds.
The plants are toxic to livestock, but because of the bitter flavor they are seldom eaten.
The genus name Asclepias is from the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios, because of the medicinal properties of the plant.

The plants bloom in June, and the seeds ripen in September. The pods burst open and the seeds blow away on tufts of fine silk which are attached to one end of each seed. The empty pods remain through the winter on their tall dry stalks along the roadsides.
The silky down of the seedpods is more buoyant than cork. During World War II it was used as flotation material in life jackets and flight suits.

Milkweed in Autumn
    Near Salina
    Sevier County, Utah


by Sandra Bray