Milkweed pods, at Deep Hollow yesterday before I almost kerfuffled from the overwhelming heat and humidity.
They are becoming actually trendy. the fibers in the pods are used to stuff high-end mattresses and clothing these days, while they have a storied history.
They kept soldiers and sailors afloat during WW II. You can even eat them, but I’d advise saving them for the monarchs who need them a whole lot more.
Different Uses of Milkweed
Milkweed is primarily known as the only food source for monarch butterflies, a butterfly species known for the massive distances they travel during migration to escape winter. North American monarchs in particular can travel up to 3,000 miles and stay in California and Mexico.10
To help protect monarch butterflies and improve their chances of survival, you can plant milkweed in your garden or farm. You may use the Milkweed Seed Finder to locate seed suppliers in your area. If you opt for starter plants, make sure they are not pretreated with pesticides.
Small creatures rely on milkweed as well, such as the eponymous red milkweed beetle, which is known for its striking lipstick-red color, black spots and long antennae.11 Another example is the swamp milkweed beetle, which has orange and black markings.12 Certain aphids, ladybug beetles and ants also derive nutrients from milkweed.13
Humans have also benefited greatly from milkweed throughout history. Native Americans taught the first European settlers how to cook the plant properly to avoid becoming poisoned. The sap was applied topically to help remove warts, and the roots were chewed to help ease dysentery. Infusions of the roots and leaves were also made to help with coughs, fever and asthma.14
Milkweed has shown surprising potential in the realm of textiles as well. It is known for its strong fiber, which was used to make bow strings, threads, fishing lines and belts. However, it was during World War II that milkweed shone the brightest. It was used as the filler in life vests and flight suits to help countless soldiers and sailors survive at sea. To make the flotation devices, hollow milkweed fibers were coated in wax, making them waterproof and buoyant.15