A Seed with History

Every fall I become this hoarder of seeds, a crazy woman yielding pruners and brown paper sacks wherever I go.  No yard is safe from the crazy seed lady.  I am unable to stop myself.  I must have more seeds, I chant with eyes glazed.

This is especially true when milkweed (Asclepias sp.) is involved.

Asclepias tuberosa

Milkweed is one of the toughest plants I know.  It blooms its ever lovin’ heart out all summer despite the horrendous heat, humidity, and drought Arkansas has to offer.

And all those flowers can only mean one thing…………..

Seeds.  Gorgeous seeds.

Asclepias seed

Milkweed pods look similar to okra pods (above, left) and form after the flowers have faded away.  When ripe, they burst open to reveal their seed and silky “wings”.   Each seed is attached to a silk-like material that aids in the distribution of the seed.

milkweed seeds2


In WWII, american school kids collected the silk from the milkweed seed and used it to fill life preservers for the armed forces. The silk was said to be more bouyant than cork.  Their motto was “two bagsful save a life”.

Asclepias seed

It is also said that milkweed silk is a very good insulator and that Native Americans used the silk to insulate moccasins and robes.

I have also heard that milkweed silk is being mixed with goose down for comforters and pillows.  This product is call Hypodown.

An advocate for natural fibers posted that she collected 650 pods of milkweed one season.  Her large bounty only yielded three-quarters of a bushel of silks.  Believe me when I tell you– I have separated seeds from silk before and it takes some time.  She didn’t say how long it took her, but I’m quite certain it took her days.

For me, I would rather spend my time collecting seeds.

Excuse me as my eyes glaze over.

I must have more seeds………

About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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8 Responses to A Seed with History

  1. Claudia says:

    Great info on milkweed down – I love to learn from my fellow gardeners – Thanks bunches.


  2. Peter says:

    I love milkweed seed pods! I remember playing with them in the fields as a kid back in Vermont. Their plump exteriors carrying such soft cargo. Out here in the west, I don’t see many of them except occasionally on Asclepias in gardens. Now I live in the city, and there just don’t seem to be many fields to frolic in nearby.


  3. I never could get nursery grown milkweed to live. This year a local gardener gave me a plant and it THRIVED. I loved going out there everyday to see how the monarch caterpillars were coming along. I have only the common milkweed, not the solid orange like you have.


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