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Asclepias syriaca

Underside of common milkweed leaf showing prominent midrib, veins, and fuzzy surface.

Common milkweed shoots emerging in corn residue.

Common milkweed flower head.

  • Linneaus used 'syriaca' when naming this species because he believed it was from Syria.

  • The floss, which is 5 times more buoyant than cork and 6 times lighter and warmer than wool, has had a variety of uses such as stuffing pillows, mattresses, life preservers, and flight jackets.

  • Scientists experimented with using the milky sap as an alternative source for rubber.

  • The fibrous stems have been suggested as an alternative for flax or hemp.

  • Native Americans used common milkweed flowers in jam and, after careful preparation, young shoots were eaten like asparagus.

  • Caterpillars of monarch butterflies often feed on leaves of common milkweed. As a result, predators find both caterpillars and adult butterflies distasteful and generally avoid eating them.