Butterfly Milkweed (Ascleipias tuberosa) is found throughout the Tallgrass Prairie region in open areas, usually in prairies or remnants of prairies. It is showing up now along old country roads and abandoned roads and abandoned railroad right-of-ways. It blooms from May through September and can reach 2 1/2 feet in height; bright orange, occasionally yellow flowers clustered together in heads. A favorite for attracting and sustaining butterflies. Buttefly Milkweed prefers a dry, well drained location to successfully seed.
Milkweed family - From the Greek God of Healing and Medicine, Asclepias and tuberosa, meaning "tuberous".
|Sun Exposure||Prairie, Savanna|
|Soil Moisture||Mesic, Dry Mesic, Dry|
|Bloom Time||Spring, Summer |
June, July, August
|Max Height||3 feet|
|Seeds Per Packet||100|
|Seeds Per Ounce||4300|
The flowers do attract insects and are specifically designed to attract flying pollinators. Only a few of the flowers will be pollinated on any given plant; that is why there are generally so few pods in the Fall.
The root of Asclepias tuberosa was once thought to be a cure for pleurisy, hence the name "Pleurisy Root". Dr. Charles Millspaugh summarized the claims of many authors on medical meterials regarding the medicinal qualities of Pleurisy Root: "The Pleurisy Root has received more attention than any other species of this genus, having been regarded almost since the discovery of this country, as a subtonic, diaphoretic, alternative, expectorant, diuretic, laxative, escarhotic, carminative, anti-spasmodic, anti-pleuritic, somachic, astringent, anti-rheumatic, anti-syphilitic...It has been recommended in low typhoid states, pneumonia, catarrh, bronchitis, pleurisy, dyspepsia, indigestion, dysentery, helmenthiasis and obstinate ecezemas."
During WWII, the sap of the milkweed family plants were used experimentally to provide a rubber substitute. The silk produced by the seed pods was also used as a substitute for kapok in flotation devices for many years.
While most parts of this plant have been used as food, some caution is advised since large doses can cause diarrhea and vomiting - see the notes above on toxicity.
Flower buds: Cooked. They taste somewhat like peas.
Young shoots: Cooked. An asparagus substitute. The tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach.
Young seed pods: Cooked. Harvested when 3 - 4 cm long and before the seed floss begins to form, they are very appetizing.
Flower clusters: Can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup. In hot weather the flowers produce so much nectar that it crystallises out into small lumps which can be eaten like sweets, they are delicious.
Root: Cooked. A nutty flavour. Some reports say that it is poisonous.
An edible oil is obtained from the seed. The seed is very small, however, and commercial usage would not be very viable.
Pleurisy root is a bitter, nutty-flavoured tonic herb that increases perspiration, relieves spasms and acts as an expectorant. It was much used by the North American Indians and acquired a reputation as a heal-all amongst the earlier white settlers.
The root is antispasmodic, carminative, mildly cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, tonic and vasodilator. The root was very popular as a medicinal herb for the treatment of a range of lung diseases, it was considered especially useful as an expectorant. It has never been scientifically examined and warrants further investigation. It has also been used internally with great advantage in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, rheumatism etc. Use with caution, This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women. See also the notes above on toxicity. The root is harvested in the autumn and can be used fresh or dried.
A poultice of the dried, powdered roots is used in the treatment of swellings, bruises, wounds, ulcers, lameness etc.
A good quality fibre is obtained from the bark and is used in making twine, cloth etc. It is easily harvested in late autumn after the plant has died down by simply pulling the fibres off the dried stems. The seed floss is used to stuff pillows etc or is mixed with other fibres to make cloth. It is a kapok substitute, used in life jackets or as a stuffing material. Very water repellent. The floss has also been used to mop up oil spills at sea.
The plant is a potential source of latex, used for making rubber. This species is the only member of the genus that does not have latex in its sap.
The seedpods contain an oil and a wax which are of potential importance.
Candle wicks are made from the seed floss.
The seed contains up to 21% of a semi-drying oil.
It's main use in present day herbalism is for relieving the pain and inflammation of pleurisy.