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Asclepias incarnataAsclepias Varieties
Milkweed

There's plenty of folklore associated with this wonderful Moon plant, probably because of the sheer magicalness of its fluff. It is said that adding milkweed fluff to dream pillows will make one dream of the Fae. Folklore also says that for each floating seed one catches and lets go of, a wish is granted. The flowers are associated with Summer Solstice magick and the fluff with fall equinox. Some sources of magickal lore recommend using the juice of this magick herb to anoint a baby's third eye to enhance its imagination and creativity, but milkweed latex can cause itchy dermatitis even on adult skin. Stroking the area with a leaf tip might be a better idea skin-wise. Iroquois Indians used this plant to prepare themselves to fight witches, so it obviously has protective properties as well as being useful in divination. Its easily spun fibers offer unique opportunities for knot magic.

Rose milkweed pods This North American native plant is beloved by butterflies, hummingbirds, and children. Of twelve native varieties, we currently carry two--incarnata (Rose- or Swamp-Milkweed) and speciosa (Showy-Milkweed)--each of which has rosy pink flowers in large clusters and is very fragrant. The flowers are good cut, but the end must be seared with a flame so they don't wilt. They can stay fresh for a week. Milkweed plants get wonderful alien-looking pods 3"/7 cm long that crack open to release tons of milky, fluffy seeds in October and November. The dried pods are neat in flower arrangements, and the inside of the pods is a silvery white, showing a great Moon influence. The white sap is also characteristic of Moon plants, which are often, as this is, diuretic. This plant is known for attracting hummingbirds, sphinx moths, and butterflies, especially the monarch butterfly, which lays its eggs on this plant, the grey hairstreak, and fritillaries. Top

In Eclectic medicine, that curious blend of European herbalism and Native American plant knowledge, the root of rose milkweed was dried and powdered, boiled with water, and administered in tiny doses like digitalis (foxglove) for edema due to heart failure. That gives you an idea of the root's power. The Chippewa used the root to make an infusion to add to a strenghtening bath for children. Iroquois decocted its root and drank it as a diuretic. They spun the fibers into a cord for pulling teeth; unlike flax, these fibers don't need special treatment to be removed from the dead stem. Just pull them off. The fluff is water-proof and has been used to stuff life-vests. It can also be spun, and the latex can be made into a fine rubber.  Top

There are some magick sources that call Apocynum androsaeifolium milkweed, but they are completely different plants. The confusion perhaps comes about because milkweed is in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae). This plant is named Asclepias after Asklepios, the father of Greek medicine. "Incarnata" means flesh-pink. Rose milkwood is also known as flesh-colored milkweed, red milkweed, swamp silkweed, white Indian hemp, incarnate swallowort, and Asclepias pulchra. "Speciosa" means excellent or celebrated, and Asclepias speciosa - showy milkweed - lives up to its name with clusters of spikey star-shaped pink flowers. Similar to common milkweed, showy milkweed tolerates a variety of conditions and, unlike rose milkweed, it is rather drought tolerant.

Showy milkweed is one of the least toxic of the milkweeds--you can find recipes for the young leaves and seed pods--but please approach it with respect and care as other members of this family can be harmful if ingested. According to the University of North Carolina, rose milkweed is toxic only if large quantities are eaten; however, it is deadly to sheep. Plants for a Future reports that parts of it are edible by humans--the buds are cooked and said to taste like peas. They can also be dried and stored like peas. The shoots are cooked as a substitute for asparagus in two changes of water. The young seed pods are also said to be edible when they are little--about an inch/3-4 cm long--and cooked in two changes of water. Keep in mind that part of the reason why caterpillers like to eat this plant is because the plant's poison makes them taste bad to birds. If it tastes bitter, spit it out. Most interesting, the flowers can be boiled in water and reduced to a sweet syrup. This syrup might have interesting properties for incense making. TopTop

Asclepias speciosa bloomsHow to grow milkweed: Seeds should germinate easily at room temperature (68F/20C), but you will get a higher germination rate if you sow them in a paper towel that has been wet and wrung out, put in a baggie, and refrigerated for 4 weeks. Or sow on Winter Solstice (see special directions on the Solstice Sowing page). After hardening off (getting them used to sunlight slowly, 30 minutes per day), transplant seedlings to full sun.

Asclepias incarnata likes Moon environments such as wet meadows, ditches, and the banks of ponds, but it will grow happily in regular garden conditions as well. It is a good plant for mucky clay and is deerproof. The flowers are 3-5"/8-12 cm wide and appear July-August. It is a perennial in temperate zones (3-9, or down to -40F/-40C). At 4 ft/1.2 m tall and 2 ft/50 cm wide, rose milkweed gets larger than regular and showy milkweed.

Asclepias speciosa is perennial in zones 3-7, native to the western half of North America, and thrives in montanes, dry slopes, open woodland areas, and roadsides. Typically 1.5-3 ft tall (.5-1 m), it can reach 6 ft (1.8 m) in favorable conditions. Speciosa, like all milkweeds, is a specific monarch butterfly food and habitat plant. It is also the larval host for the dogbane tiger moth and the queen butterfly. Aphids tend to like milkweed stems, so if you see them, spray them off with a strong stream of water.   General growing info. Top

 

Asclepias incarnata
Rose milkweed
40 seeds $3.50


Asclepias speciosa
Showy milkweed
40 seeds $3.50


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Fairy Plant
Dreamwork
Divination
Celebrating Summer Solstice & Fall Equinox
Moon Herb

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